Flu jab supply problem leaves GP practices facing loss of thousands of pounds

Some GP practices in England are set to lose thousands of pounds this winter because they have been unable to secure supplies of the flu vaccine for over-65s.

Flu jab (Photo: iStock/SteveDebenport)

Two practices in Ealing, west London say they have been told their orders of FLUAD, the vaccine NHS England expects GPs to offer patients aged 65 and over this year, cannot be fulfilled - and at least one other practice in London and another in St Albans say they are in a similar position.

Pharmacists have also reported problems obtaining orders of the vaccine ahead of the 2018/19 flu season.

Vaccine manufacturer Seqirus says that only a small number of practices are affected - and that enough doses will be dispatched to ensure everybody who requires a vaccine will get one.

Flu vaccine

However, patients aged over 65 at affected practices will have to go elsewhere to receive a flu vaccination - and their practices will lose out financially. Analysis by GPonline suggests around 1,300 patients per average practice are eligible for the over-65 flu jab - and practices unable to secure doses of the vaccine will miss out on the £9.80 fee per jab.

London GP Dr Rosemary Leonard said on Twitter that her practice had been told its order could not be fulfilled and a practice nurse from St Albans responded that her practice faced the same problem.

A spokeswoman for Seqirus said the company had processed more than 8,500 orders for FLUAD from practices and pharmacies across the UK, totalling almost 9.3m doses. A total of 7.8m doses are destined for GP practices, she said.

‘We experienced some processing challenges during the ordering period due to the sudden high volume of requests, however we believe this impacted a relatively small number of orders and that the majority of issues have been resolved,’ the spokeswoman said.

‘Based on previously reported influenza vaccination rates for people aged 65 years and older, and the total number of doses we will be supplying, there will be sufficient quantities of FLUAD available across the UK to vaccinate this vulnerable population.'

Vaccine uptake

Data from NHS Digital show there are currently about 10.3m patients aged 65 and over registered with a GP practice in England. In the 2017/18 flu season, uptake among over-65s was 73% - if this uptake is maintained, 7.5m patients will receive the jab in 2018/19.

GPC clinical and prescribing lead Dr Andrew Green said: ‘It will be most unfortunate if practices cannot obtain the supplies they need of the FLUAD vaccine for the over 65s, as a matter of good business practice I would expect practices to have a record of the orders that have been made.

‘What is clear is that if providers cannot immunize over 65-year-old patients with FLUAD for whatever reason then they must direct patients to alternative providers. Giving a less effective vaccine to a patient when alternatives exist would be clinically and ethically unacceptable, and any resulting complaints would be indefensible.’

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