Primary care nurses must be given appropriate support, resources and time in order to deliver the ambitions of the newly published vaccination strategy in England, Nursing in Practice has been told.
Leading nurses have welcomed NHS England’s new strategy which suggests vaccinations will become part of a ‘one-stop shop’, with nurses and colleagues set to expand the offer of blood pressure tests and other health checks and advice alongside routine vaccinations.
The long-awaited national vaccination strategy document, published on Wednesday, also said that local health teams ‘will have more flexibility’ to locate vaccine services in convenient local places such as community centres, sport facilities and places of worship.
In addition, from 2025/26 people will be able to access their own vaccination record through the NHS App and book vaccinations.
Independent nurse consultant and immunisation specialist Helen Donovan was pleased to see the strategy launch and its ambitions around ‘easing up’ the way that people can make appointments to be vaccinated.
However, she stressed that the time it takes for nurses to carry out vaccination appointments needed more consideration.
For example, she questioned whether practice nurses would have the capacity to do a blood pressure check alongside vaccinations, particularly where several vaccines are needed.
While nurses strive to ensure they ‘make every contact count’, Ms Donovan said this depended on having the ‘time, resource and the capacity’ to do so.
‘What nurses and other clinicians say to me is “we all want to make every contact count, but we don’t always have the time to do it”,’ said Ms Donovan, who is also a Queen’s Nurse.
In addition, she noted that nurses were ‘increasingly telling me that they are lucky if they get 10-minute slots’ for children’s vaccines, despite guidance from the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) stating that 20-minute slots are required for most children’s appointments where the schedule is complex.
‘My worry is that to do those sorts of consultations safely, you need more time,’ she said.
Ms Donovan stressed it was also important to consider the education and training needs of nurses giving vaccinations, including annual updates, and the time and funding this also required to facilitate.
Overarchingly, Ms Donovan also highlighted how ‘we need funding to facilitate the strategy and more registered nurses in primary care settings generally’.
This was echoed by RCN professional lead for primary care Heather Randle who also warned of the support and resources nurses needed to deliver this work.
She told Nursing in Practice that the strategy was ‘a significant and important development for public health’.
‘However, there is a chronic shortage of nursing staff to provide these, and they need support and resources to deliver this programme of essential vaccines,’ added Ms Randle.
‘Primary care nurses are already at the forefront of vaccination programs, and they will tell you that giving vaccines are never just about the injections.
‘They fully appreciate how vaccination appointments provide the opportunity to carry out a health and wellbeing check.’
In addition, Ms Randle warned it was important to ensure that ‘increased opportunities to be vaccinated do not dilute that opportunity to check on the patient and their family’.