Autumn (C-19 & flu) vaccination programme brought forward

  • Following guidance from the UKHSA, the Government has asked NHS England to bring forward the start of the COVID-19 autumn/winter booster programme to commence on 11th September 2023.
  • Additional payments will be made for vaccinations administered in September and October.
  • The Expression of Interest process for pharmacies (which was due to close last night) will remain open until 5pm on Monday 4th September.
  • Wherever possible, patients should be offered flu and COVID-19 vaccination at the same time. Flu vaccinations can and should be offered to eligible patients in September.

Due to the risks presented by the new BA.2.86 variant of COVID-19, the NHS has been asked by the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) to bring the COVID-19 vaccination programme forward, to start earlier, and to accelerate delivery of the programme to vaccinate eligible people more quickly. The Government would like as many people as possible to have been vaccinated by the end of October.

Read the DHSC announcement

The revised timings for the programme

For pharmacies providing COVID-19 vaccinations:

  • From 11th September 2023 vaccination for care home residents and those who are housebound should start, coordinated by Integrated Care Systems (ICS). NHS England is asking ICS to ensure that all residents are vaccinated before 22nd October 2023.
  • From 11th September 2023, COVID-19 vaccinations can also commence for other eligible people via local booking systems, starting with those who are most at risk, including those who are immunosuppressed.
  • On 18th September 2023, this will be complemented by the National Booking System (NBS) which will become available to allow eligible people to book a COVID-19 vaccination online (using NHS.uk), via the NHS App or by calling 119.
  • National COVID-19 vaccination invitations will also start being issued to eligible patients from 18th September.

Wherever possible, patients should be offered flu vaccination at the same time as their COVID-19 vaccination.

This change in the timings for the vaccination programme supersedes the previous information NHS England issued to pharmacy owners on the provision of flu vaccinations starting in October (unless firm commitments and appointments have already been made). Flu vaccinations can and should be offered to eligible patients in September.

Changes to COVID-19 vaccination funding

NHS England is putting in place interim financial arrangements to support acceleration of the vaccination programme, recognising the additional administrative, organisational and delivery costs which pharmacy owners will incur.

Pharmacies commissioned to provide COVID-19 vaccinations will now be eligible to claim:

  • An additional acceleration payment of £10 (in addition to the item of service (IoS) fee) for each COVID-19 vaccination administered to care home residents between 11th September and Sunday 22nd October 2023 inclusive.
  • A separate one-off additional payment of £200 for each completed care home by 23:59 on Sunday 22nd October 2023 that is confirmed to the commissioner by the submission of a live time survey no later than 23:59 on Sunday 29th October 2023.

To support the acceleration of COVID-19 vaccinations to other eligible cohorts:

  • An additional £5 acceleration payment (in addition to the IoS fee) will be paid for each COVID-19 vaccination administered to other eligible people (i.e. excluding care home residents and housebound people, who are covered by the above arrangements) between 11th September and 31st October 2023.

Extension to the Expression of Interest period for pharmacies

The Expression of Interest process for pharmacies (which was due to close last night) will remain open until 5pm on Monday 4th September.

Further information on these changes

Read the NHS England letter on the changes


Commenting on these developments in the COVID-19 vaccination programme, Alastair Buxton, Director of NHS Services, Community Pharmacy England, said:

“We understand and support the clinical need for this accelerated booster campaign and the acceleration payments for early vaccinations will make it more financially viable for some pharmacy owners to take part. But despite the good news on funding – in line with our repeated warnings to NHS England that the fees being offered were too low – for community pharmacies and other providers this has been a shambolic start to the winter vaccination programme. It simply isn’t efficient for pharmacies or other providers to work to a seemingly endlessly changing timetable.

“The acceleration payments being offered in September and October may mean that more pharmacies are able to provide COVID vaccinations, and to facilitate this the NHS will extend the deadline for expressions of interest to provide the service, but time is now incredibly tight for pharmacy teams to prepare for the start of the season.

“Community pharmacies stood ready to support the emergency COVID-19 vaccination programmes during the pandemic and many pharmacies still wish to play their part, so long as it makes economic sense, and so long as they can plan properly for it. Pharmacies will once again show their adaptability and do their utmost to help with this newly accelerated campaign, but the policy to-ing and fro-ing that we have seen this year must not be repeated.”


Government u-turn on Covid-19 and flu vaccines means ‘time is now incredibly tight’ for pharmacy teams

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