Pharmacies should prepare to deliver flu jabs to eligible cohorts until February next year, NHS England has said.

The ‘longer-than-usual timescale’ is to ‘ensure all cohorts are covered’, it added.

It comes as pharmacies were last week invited to bid for a £3.2 million fund to cover the reasonable additional costs of delivering this year’s expanded flu vaccination programme.

A new NHS England flu programme FAQ document, published on Friday (23 October), said that ‘pharmacies should prepare to offer vaccination over a longer than usual time scale – into January and February 2021 – to ensure all cohorts are covered, particularly as the additional national supply secured by DHSC is being made available in November/December’.

The guidance also advised pharmacies that have already used up their flu vaccine stock to 'continue to liaise' with their manufacturers or suppliers to understand when further deliveries of local stock are due, so they can 'advise patients accordingly’. 

It added: ‘We have already seen huge early demand for the flu vaccination and a lot of people have already been vaccinated thanks to the hard work of practices and community pharmacies.’  

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has said that guidance on how pharmacies can place orders for the government-procured flu stock will be made available 'shortly'.

Recording vaccinations

The FAQ document also said the new cohorts for this year's programme have been reflected on the manual form that pharmacies can use to notify the patient’s GP that a vaccination has taken place. 

‘PharmOutcomes and Sonar systems have also been updated to reflect the new cohorts, so this information can be recorded and transmitted electronically to the GP too,’ it added. 

NHS England also advised pharmacies that although eligible patients who are not registered with a GP may receive a vaccine at a pharmacy, staff should 'consider discussing with these patients presenting for flu vaccination whether they wish to register with a local GP practice’. 

Expanded flu programme

Last week (22 October), the Government announced that ‘millions’ more doses of flu vaccine are to be delivered after new laws enabled the distribution of a yet-to-be-licensed vaccine.

This year's expanded flu programme is targeting 30 million people, with new cohorts made eligible for a free jab.

Alastair Buxton, PSNC’s head of NHS services, said in a Radio 4 interview on 16 October that the Government’s public health campaign on this year’s flu programme was missing ‘key details’ on the possible delays patients might face in getting a vaccination.

A version of this story first appeared in our sister title Pulse.