Planning a successful flu vaccination campaign seems to be getting harder and harder. Lack of patient engagement and uptake of the flu vaccine, vaccine delivery delays and the introduction of two types of vaccine were some of the difficulties practices faced in 2018/19.
For 2019/20, it seems as though those difficulties remain. However, this year practices have had some advanced warning to allow them to better prepare for their campaigns. This article will discuss some of these issues and offer considerations for practice managers.
One of the main issues last year was trying to inform and engage patients to attend the surgery for a flu vaccine. This could have been down to the lack of marketing materials available at an early stage to educate patients on the importance of receiving a flu vaccine.
Proactively marketing the flu vaccination campaign at an early stage can increase patient engagement as this will help patients to plan and book an appointment or attend a drop-in session around their existing commitments.
For patients who regularly attend the surgery, having dedicated notice boards projecting this single message acts as a good source of information and reminder for patients.
Other visual aids could be for the reception team to wear t-shirts which advertises the flu campaign or a sign on the back of the consulting room door which states the simple message “don’t forget to book an appointment for your flu vaccine”
Additional marketing through social media as well as website posts and telephone messages are powerful tools to educate patients who do not regularly attend the surgery.
Practices should also consider how and when to call/recall all eligible patients. With the advancing use of digital technology in general practice, practices could potentially increase the use of SMS or email rather than posting the traditional invite letter, providing the correct patient consents are in place.
Another issue that practices should already be aware of, is the delay of the inactivated Quadrivalent influenza vaccine for those patients at risk and under 65 years old. This advanced warning should have served as a prompt to practices to review their strategies and look for ways to ensure this does not impact patient care.
One such strategy could be for practices to adopt a single vaccine clinic approach; i.e. if a practice knows they are receiving the adjuvanted trivalent influenza vaccine for patients over 65 years flu vaccine earlier, why not use this opportunity to focus on vaccinating this patient cohort first. Then when the other vaccine arrives, efforts can be concentrated on the remaining patient cohort.
The benefits of adopting this approach are that clinics will be more efficient due to predetermination of vaccine for use by the clinician and it also reduces the risk of patients being incorrectly vaccinated.
Making an informed decision when to schedule clinics is also an important factor to consider. It is worth considering, for example, whether a practice can increase clinician availability during extended hours to offer appointments or drop in sessions for patients who find it difficult to attend the surgery during core hours. If a practice has a branch site, can clinics be arranged there so that patients have access closer to home.
As a side note and a little red flag in my book, it was a little disconcerting to read in the medical press about the potential lack of indemnity cover for the administration of flu vaccinations to practice staff. In a document by NHS Resolution which outlines whether or not specific activities are covered under the scheme, the vaccination of general practice staff is not specifically listed. However, the document did stipulate the list as not exhaustive. Some medical defence organisations (MDO) are publishing their position on this issue, but it would be worth checking to see if one’s own practice is covered by its MDO as this issue is currently not clarified by NHS Resolution.
In conclusion, considering and/or adopting some of the above proposals may assist with planning the flu vaccination campaign in 2019/20 so that individual practice plans and strategies can be updated for the benefit of all.