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Don’t repeat flu jab start date chaos, sector tells Barclay

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Don’t repeat flu jab start date chaos, sector tells Barclay

Community Pharmacy England has led calls on health secretary Steve Barclay not to repeat the last-minute disruptions that occurred with this year’s national flu vaccination service. 

A joint letter co-ordinated by CPE and co-signed by organisations including the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, vaccine manufacturer Seqirus, NHS Confederation and wholesaler trade body the Healthcare Distribution Association, all of whom urged Mr Barclay to ensure discussions take place for the 2024-25 flu programme “well ahead of the start of the season”.

This follows a chaotic series of announcements based on advice from the UK Health Security Agency’s vaccination committee. Initial guidance sent to pharmacies in August delayed the start date of the service from the usual date of September 1 to October, before NHS England issued fresh advice that allowed pre-booked appointments in September to go ahead. 

The joint letter tells Mr Barclay: “Whilst we welcomed your intervention to allow pre-booked September flu vaccinations to go ahead this year, we are concerned that with planning and ordering already underway for next winter by many across both primary care and industry, we want to avoid last minute unnecessary changes that cause confusion, disrupt employment and potentially impact vaccine uptake rates.

“We would like to ensure that all key parties can contribute to the planning of the 2024-24 winter vaccination programme at an appropriately early stage and we hope you will be supportive of that.” 

The organisations said they “stand ready to commence these discussions in the coming weeks” with officials from the Department of Health and Social Care, UKHSA and NHSE.

CPE director of NHS services Alastair Buxton said: “Community pharmacy teams always plan their winter vaccination provision many months before the autumn.

“This year their efforts were hampered in August when NHS England moved the goalposts on the flu vaccination start date, only to change its mind again a couple of weeks later. This was a shambolic start to the vaccination programme and caused unnecessary work and hassle for pharmacy owners and their teams.

“This sort of policy to- and fro-ing must not be repeated and we hope to begin constructive conversations with NHS and the Government very soon to help next year’s programme run more smoothly for all.”

A spokesperson for the DHSC declined to comment when approached by P3pharmacy and insisted it was a matter for the UKHSA, which did not issue a response in time for publication.

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