Flu vac service spec published

NHS England (NHSE) has, today, published the service specification for the 2023/24 Community Pharmacy Seasonal Influenza Vaccination Advanced Service.

Changes to the service requirements

Only a small number of amendments have been made to the service specification this season. The key changes are:

  • The eligible patient cohorts have been amended to reflect those previously announced, i.e. the removal of the 50-64 years old, not at-risk cohort.
  • The commencement date for the service will be announced by NHSE in their Primary Care Bulletin; they advise it is likely to be in October, i.e. the service is unlikely to start as in previous years on 1st September. The start date will be informed by guidance given by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) and it may include requirements related to the prioritisation of certain eligible cohorts of patients.
  • Pharmacy owners must use an NHS-assured point of care IT system (e.g. Sonar Informatics and PharmOutcomes*) to make their clinical records for the service and to submit payment claims to the NHSBSA’s Manage Your Service platform (automatically via an application programming interface).
    The vast majority of pharmacy teams have been using such a system, provided by their NHSE regional team, over the last few years and they will continue to be made available to pharmacy owners by the regions.

*Those pharmacy teams using the Cegedim’s Pharmacy Services may also soon be able to opt to use Cegedim’s Pharmacy Services flu vaccination module if appropriate. Cegedim anticipates the solution is to become available to their users as an option shortly ahead of the imminent flu season.

PGD and National Protocol

As last year, the PGD will be able to be used by an appropriately trained practitioner to provide the Advanced service. This will therefore allow pharmacy owners to use other healthcare professions listed in the PGD (e.g. nurses) to provide the service under the supervision of a pharmacist.

A National Protocol is also available, which can be used by pharmacy owners as an alternative to the PGD, where they are able to make use of the skill mix flexibilities allowed by the protocol. Clinical supervision of the service will still need to be provided by a pharmacist.

Funding

Funding for the service comes from the NHS vaccination budget and is in addition to and outside of global sum funding. For the 2023/24 season, the service fee remains at £9.58 plus the cost of the vaccine (and an allowance for VAT on the cost of the medicine).

Community Pharmacy England view

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

“Community pharmacy owners are facing impossible cost increases so it is deeply frustrating that NHS England – who have all the evidence they need on this – are refusing to recognise this in the flu vaccination fee. We will continue to make the case to the NHS for increased funding for the service in future years.

“We are also extremely frustrated by NHS England’s insistence that the service specification is changed to allow them to determine the date for commencement of vaccinations, rather than the service starting on 1st September, as has previously been the case.

“We understand there may be a clinical rationale for a delayed start, subject to the advice of the JCVI, but it is not the behaviour of a responsible organisation to impose such a change without adequate prior notice being given to pharmacy owners. Notice should have been provided last year, so the change in policy could have been reflected in pharmacy owners’ vaccine orders for the season and in their plans for booking advance appointments for patients wanting to be vaccinated in September. When NHS England first proposed this change several weeks ago, we strongly objected to this, due to the lack of adequate notice, but they were not willing to listen to our arguments on the impact it would have on pharmacy owners and their teams, or on the patients who have already booked their vaccination appointments in September.

“Pharmacy owners and their teams had a record-breaking flu vaccination season in 2022/23 and despite all the challenges they face, many will be working hard to repeat and build on that success in the season ahead, to help protect their patients and to support the wider NHS winter effort.”

Further details on the service and guidance

Further information on the service, guidance and resources can be found via our Flu Vaccination Hub page.

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