The NHS Confederation has called for ‘better coordination’ of bookings between mass and local vaccination sites to avoid wasted appointments ahead of a reduction in vaccine supply.
The statement comes after NHS England told vaccination sites yesterday (17 March) that there would be a ‘significant reduction’ in vaccine supplies for an expected four weeks from 29 March.
The letter asked mass vaccination centres and community pharmacy-led services to close unfilled Covid jab appointments from this date, but NHS England has said PCN-led sites should keep booking patients from the first nine priority groups for both first and second doses.
Ruth Rankine, director of the NHS Confederation’s PCN Network, said: ‘With vaccine supply expected to be limited soon, primary care networks will follow the guidance in the letter and use this period to focus on second dose appointments, as well as to follow up with people who are aged over 50 and those who are clinically vulnerable or from specific communities [cohorts one to nine].
‘However, to help them do their jobs, better coordination of bookings between the mass and local vaccination sites is essential if we are to avoid appointments being wasted in this time or primary care services spending valuable time chasing their patients who have already booked in elsewhere.’
She added that members of the PCN Network have gone ‘above and beyond’ and ‘must be supported effectively’ in the next stage of the vaccination programme.
NHSE’s letter said the drop in vaccine supplies will result in less workforce demand at hospital hubs and vaccination centres and asked Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) to plan how they will redeploy staff to other settings to maximise uptake in cohorts one to nine.
‘ICSs and STPs should work with their lead employers and vaccination providers to ensure that staffing is in place to support innovative delivery and increased cohort 1-9 penetration,’ it said.
It suggested that non-clinical staff, such as stewards, could be redeployed to support drive through vaccination services, community pop-up and mobile clinics.
Meanwhile, primary care services and providers should coordinate how clinical staff ‘might be deployed to provide vaccine confidence conversations with patient populations with low uptake’, the letter said.
It added: ‘Now we have opened vaccination to cohorts 1-9, it is very important we focus our efforts on reaching as many of these groups as possible whilst administering second doses. We must take this time to deliver protection to the most vulnerable.’
Systems should also ‘renew efforts, working with local authorities, the voluntary, community and faith sectors and other local partners’ to re-offer vaccinations in these cohorts, NHSE said.
The letter also outlined a series of actions practices should take to avoid vaccine wastage, including prioritising use of all short-life stock ahead of 29 March.
PCNs should also declare all long-life stock to regional leads where cohorts one to nine have been exhausted to ‘enable allocations to be adjusted accordingly’, consider mutual aid between sites to target lower uptake and work with other local organisations to create reserve lists of people from eligible cohorts.
NHSE also said that patients under 50 should not be offered a vaccine unless they are eligible through a higher cohort, but added that vaccination outside of these cohorts was ‘permissible in exceptional circumstances’.