Flexibilities achieved on flu vac start date

NHS England has this afternoon announced that while the flu vaccination service will officially commence in October, pharmacy owners will be able to go ahead and vaccinate any patients who have already booked September appointments and be paid for those.

The decision to allow booked appointments to go ahead follows high-level influencing work led by Community Pharmacy England and it will have huge operational benefits for pharmacy businesses who have already planned to deliver large numbers of vaccinations in September.

Commenting on the announcement, Alastair Buxton, Director of NHS Services, Community Pharmacy England said:

“While this is not quite the outcome we wanted – we would have preferred a full launch of the service in September, as has always previously been the case – we are delighted and relieved that Ministers and the NHS have responded to our calls for common sense to prevail and agreed that pharmacies who have planned vaccinations in September will be able to go ahead with those.

“Pharmacy owners will be relieved by this news and they and their patients should benefit from the avoided disruption which for many businesses could have been significant.”

NHS England’s announcement

NHS England’s letter to systems, community pharmacies and general practices says flu vaccinations (and COVID-19 vaccinations) can commence:

  • for care home residents and care home staff from 2nd October 2023; and
  • for all other eligible patient cohorts from 7th October 2023.

However, the letter also states:

Payment for vaccinations will ordinarily only be made following the service commencement date. However, we understand that some firm commitments and appointments have already been made, so where this is the case and the patient wishes to receive flu vaccination in September, NHS England will permit payment claims to be submitted.’

We suggest that pharmacy owners:

  • review their current appointment bookings for the service, noting which patients booked appointments prior to the announcement on 10th August 2023
  • update their booking systems in light of the announcement
  • carefully consider the wording on flexibilities on the start of service provision, noting any firm commitments you made prior to the announcement (beyond booked appointments). These could include, but are not limited to:
    • the orders placed for vaccines for delivery in September (and any consequence for storage capacity for subsequent planned deliveries of stock)
    • any prior planning of clinics to run on set days in September and early October
    • the planning of staff rotas and additional temporary staff or locums to support the provision of planned clinic days and times
  • consider any patient wishes to receive a flu vaccination in September and early October, in line with the letter, when considering provision of the service during that time period.

Visit our flu vaccination service webpage