The must-read stories and debate in health policy and leadership.

The prospect of a big covid comeback this winter is not the only seasonally related concern occupying the thoughts of the nation’s pharmacies. They have warned that people are at risk of not getting the flu jab unless the government and NHS England make an urgent decision about the winter vaccination programme.

The Company Chemists’ Association, which represents large pharmacy groups, told HSJ it needed prompt clariifcation about how many people it wants vaccinated for flu this year.

Successful expansion of the winter vaccine programme is seen as crucial to avoiding a potentially catastrophic demand for hospital beds as flu cases coincide with coronavirus surges.

HSJ understands a policy paper outlining how the flu programme could be expanded this winter was presented to Matt Hancock at least a fortnight ago. It was previously reported that the government was considering extending the flu jab to all over 50s but has held off finalising plans over concerns it may not be able to buy enough vaccines to make this possible.

Cash pleas get desperate

A South West health chief has warned that a major council deficit in her area is likely to put major pressure on the next phase of the region’s covid-19 response.

Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group chief executive Tracey Cox said there is a combined council deficit of over £100m in the STP area.

While government has released emergency funding for councils to help them recover from lockdown, Mrs Cox has said it “simply is not enough”.

In turn the most vulnerable people in society will be hit hardest, as social care takes up the largest proportion of council budgets.

Some councils were already on the brink of bankruptcy before the pandemic, as central government funding has dramatically reduced in recent years. If more action isn’t taken to support local authority finances, it will have disastrous consequences.