The government plans to train a wide range of healthcare staff, from midwives to physiotherapists, to deliver the coronavirus vaccine – if and when one becomes available.
Proposals unveiled by the Department of Health and Social Care today, which are subject to consultation, suggest that it wants to expand the workforce legally allowed to administer vaccines under NHS and local authority occupational health schemes and to the public, so that there are enough trained vaccinators to meet need.
Currently only certain groups of medical practitioners are authorised to administer vaccines under the NHS or local authority OH services, but consultation suggests this facility should be expanded to include midwives, nursing associates, operating department practitioners, paramedics, physiotherapists and pharmacists. Student nurses and doctors should also be considered.
“This will help ensure we have the workforce needed to deliver a mass Covid-19 vaccination programme, in addition to delivery of an upscaled influenza programme, in the autumn,” the consultation says.
“This change is also desirable for ‘business as usual’ in occupational health schemes to better reflect the ability of a broader range of registered healthcare professionals to competently deliver occupational health scheme services. However, the extension just to some occupational health schemes, and just to the additional healthcare professionals mentioned above, will be time limited, to 1 April 2022 (and so to the end of next year’s annual flu immunisation programme) to allow fuller consideration of making a long-term change in this area.”
It said that any worker newly required to administer vaccines would be trained under an NHS and Public Health England training programme.
The government recently announced an expanded flu vaccination programme for this winter, which could see millions more people eligible for a free flu vaccine.
“There is a possibility that both the flu vaccine and the Covid-19 vaccine will be delivered at the same time, and we need to make sure that in this scenario there is sufficient workforce to allow for this,” its consultation document says.
Deputy chief medical officer, professor Jonathan Van-Tam, said: “We are making progress in developing Covid-19 vaccines which we hope will be important in saving lives, protecting healthcare workers and returning to normal in future.
“The proposals consulted on today suggest ways to improve access and ensure as many people are protected from Covid-19 and flu as possible without sacrificing the absolute need to ensure that any vaccine used is both safe and effective.”
The consultation closes on 18 September 2020.