Responding to the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC)’s announcement that all over-50s will be offered Covid-19 booster and flu jabs this autumn, Dr Preeti Shukla, BMA GPC clinical and prescribing policy lead, said:
“Both Covid boosters and flu vaccines are vital public health measures and increasing the number of people they are offered to can help relieve winter pressures on the NHS at a highly stressed time for the service.
“However, we have serious concerns that the lack of organisation with which this announcement has been made is going to cause severe problems for practices. The late expansion of the flu vaccine programme, months after the annual flu letter went out to providers in March, will cause considerable difficulties as practices enter that crucial winter period. Many practices will already have their flu programmes for the 22/23 season planned out and will need to reassess and potentially reorganise their vaccine supplies at a late stage to ensure that patients who need a vaccine can access one. That is putting unfair pressure on already dangerously overstretched GP practices.
“We would certainly have expected DHSC to have procured and supplied additional vaccines centrally, as in previous years when additional age cohorts were added to the flu vaccine programme late in the day. It’s especially disappointing that instead the burden and responsibility is being passed on to practices. The recent far-too-short signup window for the Covid vaccination Enhanced Service will also have practices feeling unfairly pressured.
“We urge DHSC to ensure clarity of vaccine supply lines as soon as possible to enable practices to get on with making the necessary arrangements. It will also take a huge effort from commissioners at all levels of NHS England and integrated care systems to ensure that there is support for practices in both sourcing extra vaccines and in managing any potential fluctuations in vaccine supply that result from this.
“In a year when disruptions to supply chains of all kinds have played havoc with the global economy, it is ever more apparent what can go wrong when these basics are not sorted out. Among other things, in the event of a mismanaged vaccine supply line there can be knock-on effects to health inequalities, as recipients often become those quickest to book their jabs rather than those most in need.
“This slow decision making from the top will only cause avoidable stress for GPs. We need timely, clear information so that we can put in the orders for vaccines with confidence and get on with caring for our patients”.
Notes to editors
The BMA is a trade union and professional association representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.