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Dr Sarah Wollaston MP, Chairman, Health Select Committee

 
 

Press Release Protecting the nation: Every child matters

The childhood immunisation programme needs greater clarity and efficiency if progress is to be made.

The new 2020health report “Protecting the Nation: Every child matters” launched today at a parliamentary roundtable to MPs, clinicians and patient groups [London, 12pm] warns that progress made in childhood immunisation is at risk of being significantly undermined.

Gains in childhood vaccination from 2006/7 to 2012/13 were extremely encouraging and included the three-in-one Measles, Mumps and Rubella first dose (MMR1) vaccine, with national coverage rising from 85% to 92%, and the diphtheria / tetanus / acellular pertussis and polio booster rising from 79% to 89%.[1] Almost every locality in England saw year-on-year gains during this period.

However the recent NHS upheavals have prompted concerns from providers about sustaining progress. This report aims to share good practice and makes recommendations for further improvements to raise coverage and equity in childhood immunisation.

Julia Manning, CEO of 2020health said: “Those working in immunisation have a right to be proud of their achievements over recent years. However following the reorganisation of NHS commissioning structures, introduced April 2013, some major concerns arose, particularly around provider confusion about where to go for immunisation advice, the loss of local expertise with the decommissioning of district immunisation coordinator posts, and a lack of clarity as to who was responsible for the funding of immunisation training. To a significant extent these problems remain unresolved.”

Jon Paxman, co-author of the report said: “Fewer children have fallen ill because of the immunisation programme which is an important achievement. However we can’t be complacent; it sounds great getting 92% vaccination uptake in MMR but the Welsh experience of 2012/13 showed that anything below 95% leaves children at risk. Wales had seen three consecutive years with MMR1 uptake between 92% and 94% at 2 years, only to then see their one to four year-olds as one of the worst affected age groups during the measles outbreak. Measles cases among the unvaccinated (all ages) outnumbered those vaccinated by more than 95:1.”

Recommendations in the report include:

• A national immunisation advice line for professionals – to make immunisation advice readily accessible to providers in both urban and remote regions
• Assessment of immunisation status to become a core area of the School Entry Health Check for all children – nurses need to take this opportunity to promote the importance of vaccination and help arrange catch-up where necessary
• Consideration of local ‘Fit-for-school’ campaigns – to warn at-risk populations of the dangers of missed vaccinations
• Raising the lower immunisation threshold for GPs’ Directed Enhanced Services payment from 70% to 80% uptake – to encourage General Practice to aim for higher coverage
• Active promotion of text technology among General Practice – to facilitate efficient appointment call and timely reminders, reducing both paperwork and DNA rates

Report co-author Gail Beer said: “Some of the recommendations build on existing strategies, others suggest changes or new types of support. We mustn’t assume childhood immunisation to be on a safe trajectory towards improvement on the basis of what was previously achieved by Primary Care Trusts. Most important is ensuring that even hard to reach children have easy access to services, giving them the greatest chance of maximum protection from communicable diseases.”

Note to Editors

1. This research was funded by an unrestricted educational grant by Pfizer. All content, conclusions and views are those of the authors alone. All facts have been cross-checked for accuracy as far as possible.
2. This report is part of 2020health’s work-stream “Fit4school” which includes research on wellbeing, obesity and barriers to children making the most of their education.
3. For interviews, comment or further information please contact 2020health on 077 2020 6910

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