6
min read

These Five Steps Can Transform Your Flu Season

By
Hector Smethurst
,
August 2022
Practice managers in discussion with their call and recall team around a computer

Are you gearing up for flu season in your GP practice? These best practice tips for planning your clinics, managing your lists and managing your call and recall will help you set yourself up for your most successful flu season ever.

Flu season is one of the most challenging parts of the year in General Practice. Huge operational challenges, coupled with the monumental task of managing call and recall for lists of thousands of patients, creates additional clinical and administrative burdens at a time when the primary care system is already under pressure.

It’s calculated that there are an average of 11,000 avoidable deaths due to flu every year in the UK. Public uptake of the flu jab is far from universal – in 2021/22 only 53% of eligible “in clinical risk” patients took up the flu jab.

Getting flu season right is critical for any care system,  but any move to access more of the benefits from this life-saving preventive healthcare programme must begin in primary care. Achieving higher public uptake of flu jabs in your practice can mean a better financial outcome for your organisation and better outcomes for your patients.

The five steps in this article will help you put your best foot forward this flu season:

1. Get started as early as possible

Flu season is an administrative challenge, having a documented plan covering stock, when clinics will be held, and how call and recall will be managed as early as possible will help. Even better if this plan can be shared with the whole team ahead of time so that everyone understands their role and can provide feedback.

2. Manage each list of eligible patients separately

The 2nd March 2022 letter confirmed that the eligibility criteria will match the pre-pandemic criteria:

·      all children aged 2 or 3 years on 31 August 2022

·      all primary school aged children (from reception to Year 6)

·      those aged 6 months to under 65 years in clinical risk groups

·      pregnant women

·      those aged 65 years and over

·      those in long-stay residential care homes

·      carers

·      close contacts of immunocompromised individuals

Where possible, manage the different lists of eligible patients that are your responsibility separately – this will help you understand which lists are going well and which are not. Strategies to increase uptake for over-65s should differ to strategies focussed on children’s flu jabs.

3. Where possible, offer evening and weekend clinics

When clinics are held is one of the most important factors for how accessible a service is. Clinics held during the middle of the day are certainly preferred by some patients, but for others evening and weekend options will be far more preferable. If members of the public are having to weigh the trade-off between getting a flu jab and taking time off from work or caring responsibilities, then they may choose not to get a flu jab at all. The best behavioural rule of thumb to follow here is “if you want anyone to do anything, you’ve got to make it easy”.

4. Get smart with your call and recall

One-size-fits-all approaches to call and recall will always fall short. If you’re relying on just letters, or just SMS, or even just telephone calls then you will be missing a huge opportunity to increase your flu uptake. Just like some patients prefer weekends to weekdays, some patients will respond to a letter that would never respond to an SMS. Some patients might not respond to the first SMS, or the second, but that third SMS invitation will provide the right motivation at the right time to book their flu jab.

At this point I’ll quickly plug Appt’s service: our better call and recall service uses multiple rounds of invitations, spaced out to increase public uptake of preventive healthcare programmes like flu jabs. These invitations are designed to increase the likelihood that each patient will take up a preventive healthcare programme – and we have the data to show it works. Drop me an email if you’d like to learn more.

5. Automate as much as possible – leaving more time for the human touch

Flu call and recall is a monumental task – and if you really want to maximise uptake in your practice then the administrative burden can be crippling. To make life easier for you and your team, and to increase uptake you should automate as much as possible so you have time to use telephone recall (which – the data suggests – is the most effective call and recall channel) to focus on the patients you most want to see, those who are most at risk.

You could use a bulk SMS system or a hybrid mail system to push invitations to patients asking them to call the practice (though admittedly that shifts the burden to the front desk) – or you could use Appt.

Appt automates multiple patient invitations, so that if a patient doesn’t book in response to the first message, then they are invited again, and again if necessary. What’s more, our NHS integrations mean that we can see suitable appointments in your patient administration system and we can book eligible patients directly into your appointment book. Any patients who cannot be reached by SMS – because they do not have a mobile phone number or because they do not respond – will move to a prioritised call list so your call and recall team can apply human effort where it will be most impactful.

We’ve got a special offer just for flu season (where your practice would only pay £0.20 per successful booking) so feel free to get in touch to learn more and get started!

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