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Rolling out a national vaccination programme to aid the pandemic response comes with its own unique set of challenges and difficulties.

Overall, the NHS appears to have got off to a good start this week, which is encouraging ahead of the vaccinations starting in primary care and community settings later this month.

But one problem that needs fixing is the unintended exclusion of an unknown number of NHS and care home workers who do not have an NHS number.

Currently, the IT systems recording the vaccinations require NHS numbers to identify and track each recipient.

This means people without the NHS number – anyone who hasn’t registered with a GP or received care from the NHS – can’t get vaccinated, despite being in the top priority group.

While the problem is likely to mainly affect foreign staff, some British workers will be affected if they work in England but are registered with the NHS in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland. The number of people affected is thought to be small overall, but significant nonetheless.

Martin Green, chief executive of Care England, has called for a “fast track process” to get people registered.

NHS England/Improvement have acknowledged the issue and told HSJ there would be “special outreach” to eligible groups not connected to local GPs or other NHS services. No further details of this work were provided. 

HSJ podcast: ‘The NHS’ post-coital vaccine glow begins to fade’

This week has seen the first doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine administered in the UK, but the continuing covid pressures on the NHS remain, with concerns raised about the health service being overwhelmed in the coming months.

“We are in a post-coital glow of having delivered our first vaccines. As it becomes more routine the challenges it posts in soaking up staff and management time will come to the fore again,” warns HSJ editor Alastair McLellan on the podcast this week.

Although there are a number of trusts and systems who have done a lot of work to mitigate the challenge of having so many covid patients, some are simply overwhelmed by the speed of the second wave of admissions.

Alongside this, the vaccine programme rumbles on and we discuss the rollout in primary care expected next week and some of the sticking points faced by GPs.

Featuring Alastair McLellan, Annabelle Collins and Jasmine Rapson.