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Secret Diary of a PM – The cure for a confusing flu season

Flu clinics are never far away from our thoughts, and that’s been more true than ever thanks to the uncertainties that sprung up around the latest round of clinics.

 

At the end of last year there were rumblings that a new flu vaccine was being proposed for the 2018/19 season for over-65s, but without any firm details most surgeries placed their orders with their usual suppliers to secure the best discounts.

In January 2018 the rumblings became louder - but in true NHS style mixed messages were being sent out over whether there would be a flu vaccine for the over-65s - or will it be for the over-75s? Are we to use it and what would be the reimbursement on a dearer flu vaccine?

On the edge of our seats…

All great ‘edge-of-the-seat’ stuff so far, and further into February we were still receiving messages about the NHS going for this new flu vaccine for the over 65s. Deadlines came and went, but we were all none the wiser.

By March the message was finally clear - there would be a new vaccine for this year for all over-65s, and we were encouraged to use it.

That meant we all had to calculate our revised orders and go back to our original suppliers to amend quantities in line with patients’ ages.

The companies were very helpful and agreed to these changes when they were faced with smaller orders, which I must applaud them for.

Dealing with uncertainty

The new vaccine was being produced by only one manufacturer, which was potentially a great risk, as any errors or problems would scupper the whole 2018/19 programme. When rumours appeared in April that delivery dates and quantities for the new vaccine would not be met there was an air of real worry.

Around mid-May we were then given the news that our deliveries would be changed and it would mean a ration for everybody, with delivery dates moved along with quantities.

By that time, it was all too late - how do you prepare for clinics when things are so uncertain?

Adding extra value

An edict was sent out by the NHS to concentrate on vaccinating the over-75s first, so we made sure we invited enough of these patients to our first clinic.

We decided that with this cohort we would look at taking advantage of their visits to see if we could do BP checks, pneumonia jabs, and shingles where needed, as we knew the numbers allowed time for us to do this.

It was very successful with a good attendance and a lot of shingles and pneumonia vaccinations were given.

Patients were very impressed with the organisation and welcomed the other checks we were doing. 

The benefits of a face-to-face service

From my point of view, flu clinics are an excellent opportunity to meet and talk with patients, giving us the chance to see and hear the interaction between patients and clinicians and get feedback, which is usually very positive.

We will be running more clinics obviously, and hope that despite the delay in deliveries we will exceed last year’s numbers. Whilst everyone who delivers flu jabs has had the same changes for deliveries, we are still competing with pharmacies so we will need to be well organised to fight off any competition.

I feel this sort of face-to-face interaction highlights how various new healthcare apps can never compete with GP practices, where we do not cherry pick patients but instead offer a service for all.

It remains to be seen what patients feel after they have been seduced to one of these services and cannot get what they have been used to in a local surgery and will need to pay for certain services.

I will update you at the end of the season and I hope General Practice has a good flu season as it generates much-needed income for the practice.

First Practice Management members can access a variety of policies to help them plan for any eventuality this flu season by visiting the FPM Policies and Procedures Library. To learn more about the benefits of an FPM membership click here.


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