The new national vaccination service could launch as early as next year, Healthcare Leader’s sister title Pulse has learned.
A notice posted on a government procurement portal sets out a plan to ‘develop a procurement strategy that enables the delivery of an integrated approach to vaccinations in 2023/24’.
It gives suppliers a September deadline to express their interest in deploying vaccines and helping to design ‘an integrated strategy for all NHS immunisation programmes’.
Separately, NHS regional teams have also been tasked with generating ‘enthusiasm and awareness’ about the new strategy via stakeholder sessions this month.
Government plans for a ‘national vaccination service’ were first revealed in January, when then health secretary Sajid Javid told MPs it was needed to ensure GPs are not asked to stop routine care again, as they did during the Covid vaccination programme.
And in May, NHS England documents revealed that a ‘long-term NHS vaccination service’ is now under development.
The procurement notice was posted by NHS Arden and Greater East Midlands Commissioning Support Unit but NHS England confirmed to Pulse that it refers to the national vaccination strategy.
The notice indicates that the CSU has been given procurement authority, and is ‘now asking suitable, qualified and competent suppliers, able to manage and deploy vaccines, to indicate willingness to participate in a market engagement process and support the Authority in the design of its future strategy’.
It added: ‘In designing the future strategy, the Authority recognises the need to hear from a wide range of stakeholders, which will help in determining the right provider mix and/or deployment model for the future of the Covid-19 vaccination programme and support the development of an integrated strategy for all NHS immunisation programmes.’
The notice said the CSU would combine information from the market engagement process with ‘insight derived from local systems’ existing experience, plus evaluation of some innovative potential models of delivery’.
It set out a timeline for the process as:
- July 2022 to summer 2023 – stabilise the current delivery model to minimise any impact on the current Covid-19 deployment up to the summer of 2023.
- Summer 2022 – seek to engage with the market to gain further information and insight to assist the Authority in developing a strategy for the future management and deployment of vaccinations.
- Autumn to spring 2022/23 – develop a procurement strategy that enables the delivery of an integrated approach to vaccinations in 2023/24.
‘With the changing nature of the clinical and policy response required by new strains emerging, surges of activity and new vaccines becoming available, the vaccine deployment strategy has been developmental and has required the Authority to react to circumstance to ensure vaccines could be administered as effectively as possible,’ the notice said.
‘As more is now known about Covid-19, the Authority is now able to look towards the future and the development of a stable and effective strategy for Covid-19 vaccine deployment and wider immunisation programmes.’
But Dr David Jenner, a GP in Cullompton, Devon, warned that opening up vaccinations to more providers could lead to ‘serious loss of income’ for GP practices.
He said: ‘Potentially this could invite big pharmaceutical companies and contractors like Capita to bid for all vaccination services and remove all vaccinations from GPs.
‘This would mean serious loss of income for GPs if they lost the contracts. Once again, the Government is looking to tender off the things that GPs actually get paid for rather than being in the global sum.’
NHS England regional teams have also launched stakeholder engagement processes with GPs regarding the new national strategy.
Lancashire & Cumbria LMCs said in a bulletin that NHS England regional directors of commissioning have been asked to ‘lead a period of engagement with their systems’ in July ‘around both the national vision and local thinking so far’.
The bulletin said: ‘NHSE are developing a national integrated vaccination and immunisation strategy, building on the learning from Covid-19 and the foundations of other routine immunisation programmes which it has commissioning responsibility for.
‘Aligned with this national strategy development for wider immunisation programmes NHSE have begun to explore and develop thinking in the Northwest with partners.’
According to the LMC, NHS England’s stakeholder sessions are aimed at generating both ‘awareness of and enthusiasm for the development of a future integrated immunisation strategy and service’.
They should also identify ‘national enablers that may be needed and barriers that should be removed’; ‘gather intelligence about what is currently working well at a local level, what innovations are being deployed in the delivery of Covid or other vaccinations and what improvements are already being planned locally across all immunisation programmes’; develop ‘proposed outcomes against which a new service could be measured’; and ‘identify potential pilot areas for new delivery models’.
Former BMA GPC England chair Dr Richard Vautrey also warned against removing vaccinations from general practice.
He said: ‘GP practices have delivered a world-class vaccination system for years and providing protection through vaccination is a fundamental part of general practice care to our patients and populations.
‘It’s therefore very concerning if this plan would in any way undermine the vital role that GP practices have in annual vaccination. The Government should be supporting practices, not adding more complexity and bureaucracy.’
NHS England declined to comment.
How much funding could practices stand to lose from vaccinations?
Jenny Stone, partner at RBP Chartered Accountants, told Pulse that on average, practices will receive about £4 per patient of income for DES vaccines.
With Covid jabs, the amount of money practices have received ‘varies massively, depending on how the PCN structure the programme’, Ms Stone said.
This means that a practice with a list size of 12,000 patients could receive £50,000 a year in vaccination income, excluding Covid.
Ms Stone added: ‘If practice lose this enhanced service income, they would lose the profit they make from buying in the vaccines too and claiming back from the PPA which can equate to between 20-30% profit margin on the cost of vaccines.’