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Secret Diary of a Practice Manager : Covid, Flu Jabs and Travel Bans on the horizon

I am writing this as the Government is making us all aware of their plans for the flu programme for 2020/21

At the same time, travel to Spain is not recommended and people returning will have to isolate for 14 days, which adds to the threat of another spike in COVID and more pressure on primary care.

I think we all must recognise that COVID is going to be a threat for some time and we all must take risk assessments of everything we took for granted. Every action we take will have consequences and if that means isolating or not travelling abroad, then so be it.

I am trying not to be political but cannot help querying the current approach to COVID and looking back there does appear to be a theme of too little too late and being caught out when things go wrong. 

We are being told that the 2020/21 flu programme will be the biggest ever and that the eligible groups are being widened and hence many more vaccines are going to be needed.

The additional groups include;

  • people who are shielding from coronavirus and anyone they live with
  • people with certain medical conditions including diabetes, heart failure, and asthma
  • All pregnant women
  • pre-school children over the age of two
  • all primary school children, as last year, and, for the first time, Year 7 pupils
  • initially all people over 65, before the programme is extended to the over-50s, but later in the year.

The cynic in me is skeptical that the NHS/Government is once again making sweeping statements with little actual idea on how this year’s flu vaccination programme is going to be delivered. We are being led to believe that the government has been ordering many millions of extra flu vaccinations when GP surgeries had to order normal stock by the end of last year and we cannot increase our orders now.

Now I’m hearing that deliveries to surgeries may be delayed - I wonder if that is because the first shipments are going to NHS and government establishments, when it is our GP practices that deliver the most vaccinations?

Would it not have been better to get practices to order the extra vaccines covering the new groups of patients so that vaccines can be in the right place and allows us to plan the clinics? We all know what happens when central distribution, takes place (as in the PPE stocks) - it is shambolic.

As it stands right now, how can we plan our clinics? At present we have to make drastic changes to the way we will run them, and it is a logistical nightmare as social distancing and infection control are slowing down our clinic appointments.

Whilst I can accept that pharmacies will have a role to play, unless they are subject to the same probable rationing of supplies, we may have, it is unfair if they then get priority over general practice when we will be the first port of call for patients.

Also, with the hope of the biggest ever uptake, unless the pharmacies notify surgeries of patients they have vaccinated, we will be wasting valuable resources chasing after those that have already had the vaccine. Surely this year it is more important to record every vaccination in the patient records - in the event of another spike in COVID cases, accurate GP records are vital for ongoing treatment.

I know that whatever the challenges we face, primary care will continue do its best, but we surely need some joined-up thinking by the NHS and the government, along with the recognition that we all have to work together - and that Primary Care will need extra funding and support to deliver this extended programme at what will be a slower pace.

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