• NHS England appears to have quietly moved deadline for vaccination of older care home residents after setting target of 24 January
  • Care England told HSJ there has been a series of challenges which contributed to delays
  • NHSE insists deadline has always been the end of the month

The NHS has missed its first deadline for giving an initial dose of vaccine to all older people’s care home residents and staff, and is now working to do so by the end of the month.

An NHS England letter on 13 January said it was “expecting all [primary care] local vaccination services to administer the first dose of the covid-19 vaccine to care home residents and staff… by the end of this week wherever possible and, at the latest, by the end of next week (Sunday 24th January)”.

The letter set an additional financial payment to primary care networks for care home vaccinations by 24 January, and a smaller payment for those completed by 31 January.

It is understood the 24 January target has not been met, and NHSE and the government has now said it is 31 January.

A spokesman told HSJ that 24 January had been an “expectation” and the final deadline had “always been the end of the month”.

The representative body for independent care homes, Care England, told HSJ there had been a “number of challenges” with the vaccine rollout which contributed to the delays.

These include confusion over whether GPs should vaccinate in care homes where there has been a covid outbreak – at least two cases – and the 12-week delay between doses.

A spokesman said care home staff were told to attend hospital vaccination hubs for their first dose, and that coordinating this had contributed to delays. It is hoped staff will receive their second dose in the care homes to maximise uptake, according to Care England.

A spokesman said: “The vaccine rollout to care homes has been a massive feat and we pay tribute to adult social care workers and their colleagues in the NHS for enabling this.

“There are of course challenges, not least the time lag between doses. In addition we have heard that there is some confusion as to whether GPs can vaccinate care homes with an ‘outbreak’; guidance has been issued around this and we hope that it will no longer be a hold-up to the efficient rollout of the vaccine.

“Anything that can be done to make the vaccine more available to residents and staff at all homes, including those for people with learning disabilities and/or autism, is to be welcomed”.

The NHS England spokesman said: “Just a few weeks after the Oxford vaccine – which allows teams to more easily vaccinate in care homes – became available, the majority of care home residents have already received their jab.

“Vaccinating care home residents is a priority for local GP-led vaccinating teams, who are on track to meet the government’s goal of doing so by the end of this month.”