GP practices considering options for flu clinics amid coronavirus pandemic
Alternative venues could be set up by GP practices to ensure people are able to get flu jabs this year, health bosses say.
The flu vaccination programme has been expanded in case the coronavirus pandemic continues into winter, with millions more being offered a free jab to ease pressure on healthcare services.
Some GP practices in the county will soon be holding flu clinics, which may involve alternative venues to the surgeries themselves. Health chiefs say drive-thru clinics are also being considered to maximise uptake of jabs.
Dr Julian Povey, chairman of Shropshire and Telford & Wrekin Clinical Commissioning Groups, says GP practices are currently working out their plans, but the expansion to the programme brings with it some challenges.
He said: “Primary care has systems in place to run the immunisations for the over 65s and the under 65s in the at risk groups.
“There are challenges because practices generally order their vaccinations a year in advance; you order them at the end of the clinics so if the demand is higher the practices may have challenges getting the vaccination.
“I think in Shropshire we have generally high levels of uptake of vaccines, still lower than the national targets certainly in the younger at risk groups, but nationally we have quite high uptake.
“So whether we’ll see much of a jump is still an unknown.
“Obviously the extension of the flu programme does carry some challenges, but we have yet to hear from the Government about how they want to co-ordinate the vaccination of the non high risk 50 to 65-year-olds.
“But in primary care, they are working on their plans.
“It’s an individual practice responsibility. Some practices are working together, some are working individually and patients will begin to receive invitations from their practices either via letter or via a text or via a combination of both.
“Practices are getting ready for it, but it potentially could be a challenge.”
He said the flu clinics would be going ahead with social distancing in mind.
“Probably there won’t be as much use of waiting areas,” said Dr Povey. “People will be expected to go in and have their flu jab and go out.
“Certainly some practices are looking at alternative venues where their practices are not set up for that. Individual practices will let their own patients know. They will work slightly differently and they will move people through quickly at a social distance.
“For most patients we just ask them to be patient.”
The flu vaccine is offered free of charge on the NHS to people who are at risk. The group includes anyone who is 65 or over, pregnant and children in certain age groups or with long-term health conditions. It is also available to anyone who has certain medical conditions, is a carer or who lives with someone who is on the NHS shielded patient list.
Later in the year, the flu vaccine may be given to 50 to 64-year-olds, however those in ‘at-risk’ groups are urged not to delay getting the flu jab.
Frontline health and social care workers are also eligible to receive the flu vaccine.
Some pharmacies in the county will also be offering the jabs.
To find out if you are eligible for a free flu jab visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/vaccinations/who-should-have-flu-vaccine
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