NHS England publishes vaccination strategy

NHS England has published its vaccination strategy, on which it consulted with stakeholders and the public in the autumn of last year.

Read the vaccination strategy

A key proposal within the strategy is to delegate commissioning responsibility for vaccination services, which currently rests with NHS England, to integrated care boards (ICB). This follows similar delegation of commissioning responsibility for primary care services to ICBs.

Through implementing the strategy, NHS England hopes to build on the foundations of the current NHS vaccination programmes, including the part that community pharmacy teams play, and to tackle some of the dips in vaccination uptake which have been seen over the last few years, such as in the childhood MMR programme.

To achieve improved uptake of vaccination, NHS England will increase the information the public have on their own vaccination record, via developments in the NHS app, which will also increase the ability of people to book a vaccination appointment via the app for life-course vaccinations. The success of use of the NHS app and the National Booking Service for booking COVID-19 and flu vaccination appointments at pharmacies and primary care network sites has led to the plans to expand this functionality to other vaccination programmes.

The delegation of commissioning responsibility to ICBs by April 2025 is expected to allow them to design a local vaccination delivery network that meets the needs of their local population. That is expected to include a ‘standard’ core vaccination offer that will reach most of the population efficiently, supplemented by bespoke, targeted outreach interventions to better provide for the needs of the parts of the population that are currently underserved by vaccination services.

The strategy also recognises the core role that primary care – specifically community pharmacy and general practices – already play in various vaccination programmes. We believe that needs to be built upon, with an expansion in the range of vaccinations available from community pharmacies, so they can become central to the local core vaccination offer for their local community.

Commenting on the publication of the vaccination strategy, Alastair Buxton, Director of NHS Services at Community Pharmacy England said:

“The plans within the vaccination strategy are as we would expect from broader health policy developments, particularly the delegation of commissioning responsibility to ICBs. Many of the proposals are aligned with what we suggested in our response to NHS England’s consultation on vaccination services. The increase in information available to individuals about their vaccination record and any gaps, aligned with an ability to book appointments via the NHS app, is a welcome development.

“The strategy notes some commissioning of programmes could continue to be facilitated nationally and we believe that should continue to be the case for the C-19 and flu vaccination programmes. It also says the NHS and Government will undertake a cost-benefit analysis to examine the case for central procurement of flu vaccine. The current system where pharmacy owners purchase the vaccine ahead of the season has pros and cons for the sector, but the financial risk firmly sits with pharmacy owners. During the last two years, the size of that risk has increased with the short notice changes to the flu programme.

“In our consultation response, we proposed the development of a range of National Enhanced Services to make commissioning of vaccination programmes easier, helping local commissioners to enhance access and improve services to underserved parts of the population. The strategy refers to the development of a suite of templates and resources to support local commissioning and we believe this is a welcome development.

“Overall, the strategy provides new opportunities for community pharmacy to be able to seek to expand its role in a wider range of vaccination programmes and we will be working with the network of LPCs to ensure those opportunities can be seized at a local level.”