A last-minute change to the Covid-19 and flu vaccination programme timetable will put ‘a further strain on resources’ and result in increased ‘pressure’ across general practices, Nursing in Practice has been told.
Vaccination hubs and practices have been left to ‘rally’ around to secure staff to deliver the programmes which begin today for some eligible groups – much earlier than previously planned for.
It was announced at the end of August that this year’s autumn vaccination programmes were being brought forward to begin on 11 September following the identification of a new Covid-19 variant.
The eleventh-hour change came after the start date had already been moved once before – being pushed back from a usual September start to October.
Royal College of Nursing (RCN) professional lead for general practice nursing Heather Randle told Nursing in Practice that bringing the vaccination programmes forward would ‘require changes in planning and put a further strain on resources’.
She added: ‘This is a moment to remind ministers of the need to invest in the general practice nursing workforce that is so central to delivering these vaccination programmes and preventing unnecessary pressures elsewhere in the health and care system heading towards what is likely to be another critical time for the NHS.’
The programmes will be delivered via vaccination clinics and hubs, as well as at general practices and within community pharmacies.
From 11 September, NHS England has asked systems to begin vaccinations for care home residents and to those who are housebound, and to complete this before 22 October.
Also from today, Covid-19 and flu vaccinations can begin for those eligible via local booking systems, starting with those most at risk, including those who are immunosuppressed.
And on 18 September, the National Booking System will open up to allow those eligible to book in for their vaccines. National Covid-19 vaccine invites will also commence from this date.
Director of general practice nursing across the South East and education lead, Rebecca Corneck, told Nursing in Practice that the last-minute date changes meant there was ‘suddenly a big pressure’ to make sure vaccination services within her primary care network (PCN) in Lewisham were ready.
‘It has been pushed forward a few weeks [and] so suddenly you have to get the accelerator on and get everything together a bit quicker,’ she said.
She added: ‘It is just [about] trying to get people to start the clinics, make sure everyone’s upskilled and trained, and very quickly – whereas it was all happening in October and now it has been brought forward. So, it is causing a bit of pressure,’ she said.
Ms Corneck, who is also a lead nurse in Lewisham and works in practice one day a week, said she was asking staff to work extra hours, such as on Saturdays or during the evenings, to meet the vaccination deadlines.
She noted the ‘extra ask’ she was having to make of general practice nurses and colleagues, as well as the pressure of ensuring staff were prepared and clinics were in place.
‘Everybody has to kind of pull up and try and get it together,’ she added.
However, she stressed staff ‘do pull together’ and do ‘step up’.
‘It is just that “here we go again [feeling]”,’ she noted.
Independent nurse consultant and Nursing in Practice advisory board member Marilyn Eveleigh works to support vaccination hubs in her local area.
However, she told Nursing in Practice how the sudden date changes had caused some difficulties in sourcing vaccinators as staff had already made plans for September.
‘Most people were thinking they’ll go on holiday, they’ll get this sorted or that sorted,’ she said.
‘And suddenly, [hubs] are trying to rally staff to come in virtually a month earlier,’ noted Ms Eveleigh.
In line with advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, those eligible for a flu vaccine this year include:
- Those aged 65 years and over
- Those aged six months to under 65 years in clinical risk groups
- Pregnant women
- All children aged two or three years on 31 August 2023
- School-aged children (from Reception to Year 11)
- Those in long-stay residential care homes
- Carers in receipt of carer’s allowance, or those who are the main carer of an elderly or disabled person
- Close contacts of immunocompromised individuals
- Frontline workers in a social care setting without an employer led occupational health scheme, including those working for a registered residential care or nursing home, registered domiciliary care providers, voluntary managed hospice providers and those that are employed by those who receive direct payments personal budgets.
And those eligible for an autumn Covid-19 vaccine are:
- Residents in a care home for older adults
- All adults aged 65 years and over
- Persons aged six months to 64 years in a clinical risk group
- Frontline health and social care workers
- Persons aged 12 to 64 years who are household contacts of people with immunosuppression
- Persons aged 16 to 64 years who are carers and staff working in care homes for older adults.