CREDIT: This story was first seen in OnMedica
Free flu vaccination for millions of people and a record expansion in training for A&E consultants and other healthcare staff are two of the measures that the NHS is to take to respond to reduce winter pressures on frontline services in England, it has announced.
OnMedica reports that the BMA said it welcomed any steps to address the recruitment and retention crisis in emergency medicine, but warned that with many existing training places going unfilled, the root causes of the staffing crisis in A&Es must also be addressed.
NHS England, Public Health England, the Department of Health and NHS Improvement yesterday jointly revealed their plans to boost the uptake of flu vaccinations, along with a package of new contingency actions to respond to pressures on frontline services this winter.
NHS staff are already offered flu vaccination for free to protect patients and the public – but NHS England said this winter it has set aside £10 million to fund the extension of free jabs to up to more than one million care home workers, in recognition of their importance to the system. Trusts will also be told to ensure that nurses, doctors and other healthcare professionals get the flu jab – protecting themselves and their patients; last year, more than a third of NHS staff failed to do so.
This will happen alongside a significant expansion of the national flu vaccination programme for key groups, aiming to offer the vaccine to over 21 million people. Changes include: children in school year 4 (8-9 year olds) will be offered the vaccine for the first time, in addition to those in years 1-3; children over age 4 in reception classes can get their vaccine in school instead of by their GP; more maternity services will offer immunisation to pregnant women; and GPs and pharmacies will now be paid for vaccinating the morbidly obese.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs, urged people in at-risk groups, such as the elderly and pregnant women, to have their flu jab this winter. She said: “The vaccine takes just seconds to administer and provides valuable protection. It is also free to patients most at risk.”
She added: “The College has accredited an online CPD programme from mdBriefCase to support GPs to ensure that as many of our at-risk patients receive their annual flu vaccine in a timely way to protect them as much as possible, over the winter.”
To tackle staffing pressures within emergency departments, the announced plans include the biggest expansion in training for A&E consultants ever, with hundreds more doctors over the next four years and other healthcare staff. A new workforce plan will increase the number of people starting Emergency Medicine training next year and for the three years after that, specific additional development for all Emergency Medicine trainees, targeted support to improve the clinical education environment in struggling trusts and central investment to develop the role of the Advanced Clinical Practitioner workforce in Emergency Departments.
BMA Council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul commented: “Any steps to address the recruitment and retention crisis in emergency medicine are welcome, but with many existing training places going unfilled we need to address the root causes of the staffing crisis in our A&Es, in particular concerns around workload, stress and burnout.”
But he went on: “More detail is needed on the new emergency pressures panel, exactly what support it will provide and how it will directly benefit patients. Any panel must adopt a system-wide approach, as general practice and social care also face rising pressures during this period and we need to be much better in tracking the rising demand in these areas.
“What the NHS really needs it additional capacity, more beds, staff and funding to deal with the rise in demand on services which becomes acute during the winter period.”