The ES, which runs from 1 September 2022 until 31 March 2023, indicates that the booster programme will operate in a similar way to previous phases of the vaccination campaign.
Practices will be expected to work in a 'PCN grouping' to deliver the vaccinations at scale. GP practices do not have to be a member of a network to sign up to the ES, but they will be expected to collaborate with other practices and networks, the ES says.
In a key change from previous phases of the vaccination programme, the ES specifies that practices 'must ensure that they have in place suitable arrangements to prevent the disruption of other services or obligations' under their contract'.
Only practices that commissioners believe have the capacity to deliver vaccinations without impacting on other work they are required to do will be approved to take part in the autumn booster campaign.
Autumn COVID-19 boosters
PCN groupings will be expected to continue to run the vaccination programme from one 'designated site' where all vaccines will be delivered. However, the ES says that vaccination can happen at other sites 'with the prior consent' of NHS England and providing 'appropriate measures are taken to ensure the integrity of the cold chain as well as meeting all other relevant standards'.
All practices taking part will be expected to sign a 'COVID-19 ES vaccination collaboration agreement' before the start of September.
PCN sites will receive £10.06 per vaccination delivered, with an additional £10 payment for housebound patients. As in previous phases of the vaccination programme, one nominated practice within the PCN grouping will receive all payments.
The ES says that from 1 January 2023 if there is 'reduced patient demand, there is unacceptable wastage of the vaccine and/or the designated site does not represent acceptable value for money' NHS England could ask the PCN to suspend the service, or enter a 'pause'. PCN sites would not receive payment for any vaccinations administered during the 'pause', it adds.
The service specification also highlights that any COVID-19 vaccinations should not 'disrupt or delay deployment' of the flu vaccination programme.
It says: 'It is important individuals are offered their COVID-19 and influenza vaccine as soon as they are eligible, rather than delaying for the purpose of co-administration. We recognise there will be some instances where a short delay will ensure that more individuals receive both vaccines, for example in care homes, and sites should use their discretion to maximise these opportunities.'
The autumn COVID-19 booster campaign is targeted at patients in JCVI cohorts 1-6 - patients in care homes for older people, health and care workers, those aged over 65 and patients aged 16-65 in at-risk groups.
A previous letter from NHS England to local health leaders said that it could extend up to cohorts 1-9 - meaning all patients aged over 50 would be offered jabs, depending on advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccinations and Immunisations.
The JCVI issued interim advice in May recommending an autumn booster campaign, warning that winter would pose the greatest threat to higher-risk people.