Flu vaccination rates fell across the board in St Helens last year, as the borough’s public health boss admits there may be a “resource issue”.
The national flu programme is commissioned directly by NHS England and runs each year from the beginning of September to the end of March.
Vaccinations are delivered through several providers including GPs, pharmacies, schools, antenatal care and other settings such as specialist substance misuse providers.
Public health has an oversight role during the flu programme, while St Helens CCG supports the implementation of vaccinations.
Figures up until February 2019 show there has been a general decline in St Helens across all of the eligible groups compared to the same time last year.
St Helens failed to hit the national targets in over 65s, under 65s with at risk conditions and pregnant women categories.
Speaking at the People’s Board, Sue Forster, director of public health for St Helens Council, said vaccination rates reflect the national picture.
“We have to acknowledge that there was a dip in flu vaccine in 18-19 generally, and that wasn’t just in St Helens,” Ms Forster said.
“That was a national dip. The national evaluation has just come out and we’ve seen that that was right across the board.
“But the vaccines were well-matched with the circulating virus, which wasn’t always necessarily the case in previous years.”
Ms Forster said a change to the over 65 vaccine caused quite a lot of issues, particularly in GPs, particularly in terms of supply.
This was echoed by Tom Hughes, chairman of Healthwatch, who said the different flu vaccines for over 65s used for the first time caused a “tremendous amount of confusion” among the public.
Ms Forster said while improvements are required across the board, there needs to be a particular focus on under 65s at risk.
She also said there needs to be a focus on pre-school children, adding that hospital admissions for 0-10s were particularly high.
Vaccinations for two to three-year-olds was just within the national target of 40-65 per cent, at 40 per cent and 43.1 per cent respectively.
Ms Forster said the dip in school age vaccines was “disappointing”, although all six school year vaccines (reception to Year 5) were all within the national target.
The public health boss also said the 0-19 programme takes on new school ages every year but said no additional resources have been provided.
Ms Forster said the HPV vaccine will be coming on board for boys this year, which will put an additional pressure on the service.
“Although we’re doing well, we’re not quite hitting target,” she said.
“Essentially, we might have a service that has a resource issue as well.”
Coun Anthony Burns, cabinet member for public health, leisure and libraries, said the lack of any further resources is a “kick in the teeth”.
“Especially in this council, we’re used to cuts and we’re used to not getting additional funding, ” Coun Burns said.
“But this is another kick in the teeth to be fair.
“And I think we need to raise this quite firmly in another arena and I’ll speak to the leader about because it’s quite frankly not on that we don’t get the funding that we need to deliver this.
“And pressure is put on staff that already have full agendas to deal with.
“Now the GPs and the pharmacies get their admin fee and that’s fine. All we are asking for, I suppose, is our fair share.”