First seasonal flu plan and consultation on future procurement options for flu vaccine published

Published on Wednesday, 25 May 2011 10:34
Posted by Matthew Abbott

Improving vaccine uptake rates for at-risk groups and keeping a reserve of flu vaccine to ensure a reliable and safe supply are among measures set out in the first seasonal flu plan published by the Health Secretary Andrew Lansley today (May 25th)


The aim of the plan is to learn from the experiences of last year’s flu season and prevent the vaccine shortages that arose in some surgeries due to localised surges in demand.

The plan also includes a new emphasis on planning for different scenarios according to the nature and scale of illness to help minimise the health impacts of seasonal flu.

It sets out a co-ordinated and evidence based approach to planning for the next flu season, including:

  • improving vaccine uptake rates from 50 per cent to 75 per cent over the next three years for under 65s in at-risk groups;
  • working more closely with GPs and pharmacies to achieve this; and
  • purchasing a central strategic reserve of vaccine to use in the event of vaccine shortages.Andrew Lansley said:

“A severe flu season places considerable pressure on the NHS and, although it coped well last year, there are areas where I’m determined we can improve.

“Flu can be serious and sadly it can kill. That’s why I want to protect as many people as possible – particularly those in at risk groups – by encouraging them to be vaccinated. Vaccination saves lives and that is why I would like to see us meet the WHO recommendation that 75 per cent of people in at-risk groups are being vaccinated by 2014.”

 The seasonal flu plan covers the 2011-2012 flu season and is a step in the process of improving resilience to the pressures from seasonal flu that the NHS experiences every year.

Consultation on future procurement options

The moves to strengthen the country’s defences against flu do not stop there. A review of how the country fights flu in the long term is also underway and includes reviewing how the seasonal flu vaccine is purchased and distributed.

The Government is considering the introduction of a central purchase system for the seasonal flu vaccine and wants to hear views on whether:

  • it will make the system more robust;
  • could it improve vaccine uptake; and
  • what would be the implications for value for money.

Currently, GPs order vaccines for seasonal flu directly from manufacturers or their suppliers and are paid for providing the service through their contract. Under the central system being consulted upon, the Department would hold a contract with manufacturers and order vaccine based on GP data of vaccine requirement. GPs would then place orders for the vaccine with the Department.

This would both reduce the burden on GPs and could save the NHS up to an estimated £40 million a year.

Andrew Lansley said:

“We must never underestimate this virus which is why we are looking at how best we can maintain a good supply of vaccine in the years ahead. If it is better for patients and the NHS for vaccine to be procured centrally we will do that.

“I’d like to hear the views of all the experts including GPs, nurses and manufacturers.”

Source: Department of Health

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