NHS to consider closing hundreds of COVID-19 vaccination sites

NHS commissioners will consider closing or 'pausing' hundreds of COVID-19 vaccination sites across England as the pandemic jab programme winds down.

COVID-19 vaccine hub sign

Advice from NHS England says commissioners and providers should 'mutually agree' whether sites delivering COVID-19 vaccination should continue to operate.

Some sites will continue to deliver jabs, while others will be either closed down permanently or 'paused' - meaning they would stop delivering vaccinations for now but with an expectation that they could 'stand up at pace' within 5 to 10 days when required.

A list of vaccination sites updated on 27 April by NHS England suggests there are 1,079 GP-led vaccination sites in operation, along with 1,597 pharmacy sites, 240 hospital hubs and 128 mass vaccination centres.

Around 39,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine were administered per day on average in the first 28 days of April this year, slightly up from around 38,000 per day in March, official data show.

COVID-19 vaccination

Services delivered by local vaccination sites have been extended to 30 September 2022 under an updated to enhanced service contracts, but enable commissioners to 'require a PCN or [pharmacy] site to pause' if there is a risk of vaccine wastage, insufficient patient demand or if maintaining the site does not offer value for money.

The guidance makes clear that decisions on the future of vaccination sites should be 'mutual' between providers and commissioners, and adds that 'commissioners should consider representations from PCN groupings and/or pharmacy contractors on why sites should continue to operate'

In the event of a dispute, the decision can be escalated to an NHS England regional team for a final decision, the guidance says.

It adds that 'site pause and reactivation should not be considered a short-term solution, but a longer-term option for managing system capacity'. The advice says that there could be a limit on the number of sites that could be stood up again at once because of the workload involved in returning them to delivery rounds and IT systems.

Paused sites would be marked as 'inactive' within IT systems - and providers should be offered a list of all active sites in their area to support signposting of unvaccinated patients to vaccination sites that remain operational.

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