BMA demands urgent release of delayed flu campaign funding plans

Delayed funding plans for the 2020 flu campaign must be released urgently to help practices prepare for this year's record vaccination programme, GP leaders have warned.

BMA House (Photo: Malcolm Case-Green)
BMA House (Photo: Malcolm Case-Green)

NHS England said at the start of August that GP practices would receive details of funding for extra costs associated with this year's flu campaign by the end of the month.

However, although talks between NHS officials and the BMA's GP committee to finalise changes to this year’s flu specification - including how GPs would be reimbursed for extra costs - took place last month, no update has been published as yet.

GPonline understands the plans will be published imminently, but BMA leaders have warned the delay has left GPs increasingly 'anxious' at being left in the dark about funding for the flu campaign. With just weeks remaining before practices begin rolling out vaccinations for more than half the population, GP leaders have warned that details must be published urgently.

Expanded programme

BMA GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey said: ‘GP practices need this guidance in order to plan for the challenge of this year’s flu vaccination programme, which will be the biggest campaign ever. 

‘Practices will be understandably anxious to read the details and we are sure that NHS England will release it as soon as possible so the profession can finalise arrangements to ensure they can reach all those who need vaccinations.’

The government announced plans for an expanded flu campaign this year to try to lower chances of a severe flu season coinciding with a possible second wave of COVID-19 infections, with over half of the population set to be offered the vaccine.

However, the 2020/21 flu campaign has been fraught with uncertainty as practices have been left in the dark about what additional funding they will receive to carry out the extra work.

Staff costs

Practices could be required to hire extra staff to deliver the expanded campaign or ask existing staff to work additional hours.

Social distancing rules have also complicated plans, with GPs having to come up with novel ways to vaccinate patients - including drive-through clinics or renting school halls - and with flu jabs expected to take twice as long per patient this year.

NHS England also promised to provide ‘a comprehensive flu FAQs document’ to help practices with planning and offer information on indemnity around different delivery models. But GPs are still waiting on this document.

A GPonline poll carried out before the expansion to the flu campaign was announced highlighted widespread concern about delivering flu immunisations against the backdrop of COVID-19.

Some 91% of GPs were worried about the additional staff time and workload involved in this year's campaign, with 54% ‘very concerned’ about this issue.

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