Flu vaccines are not all the same, and nor are flu vaccine providers. The trouble is, it is quite easy to think that choosing a provider for your company is simply a matter of shopping around for the cheapest price.
Vaccinating large numbers of people against flu in a business or group setting still requires ensuring that each individual receives high quality medical attention: flu vaccination is a medical service, not a commodity, with many possible pitfalls along the way.
When choosing a provider, here are some important issues to consider, and what the Fleet Street can offer:
Quality Standards: Look for a provider who can show you that every aspect of their service complies with widely-recognised Quality Assurance standards – you need to be certain that your workforce will be well looked after, with no corners cut.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC)regulates private doctors, and CQC registration shows at least a minimum level of compliance with basic legal standards; providers that are not directly run by “private doctors” can bypass registration, making it much harder for anyone using their services to know if they meet quality standards you can trust.
SEQOHS accreditation by the Royal College of Physicians is the highest quality assurance standard in Occupational Health medicine, and involves regular, independent audit and scrutiny of every aspect of service delivery.
Guaranteed vaccine supply: Vaccines are biological products, susceptible to production failures and shortages. Any provider that buys only the cheapest vaccines will be much more vulnerable if things go wrong: the prices may sound good, but will the service truly be delivered? Each year, one or more vaccine manufacturers experience production problems or delays, leading to vaccine shortages and short supply for those providers who ordered their stock from only one source.
Pay per use: Temptingly low prices are often offered in return for a commitment to a fixed number of doses. This is a gamble: it is hard to predict the exact number of people who will attend for vaccination on the day. As with casinos, the house usually wins the bet. You may well be better off paying a little more per dose, without a commitment to numbers, paying only for the vaccines that are actually given on the day (our recommended approach).
Professional, medical service: Every season, new “virtual” providers appear on the scene – with no track record, no premises, and no back-up medical supervision or support – just with the allure of lower prices. Make sure you know whom you are dealing with. Do they have a doctor available at the end of the ‘phone who can advise if one of your staff suffers an unexpected reaction to the jab? Do they have the skills to deal with difficult cases – children, pregnant women, people with a history of allergies? Who are their other clients, and what kind of feedback have they received?
Clear pricing: Are there “hidden costs”? Trumpeting a low cost per vaccine dose often masks the fact that VAT has yet to be added to the cost or that “delivery” charges will be added to your bill. Nurse visiting costs priced “per hour” that are based on a vaccination rate of “15 doses per hour” can actually double the nurse cost! With careful preparation (which includes addressing any questions your staff may have, via FAQs and a telephone helpline) our nurses are trained to work fast and efficiently, and are able to deliver as many as 30 jabs per hour. As a result, our nurse visiting fees are highly cost-effective.
Missed appointments: What will happen to any of your staff who cannot attend on the day? Does your provider also run a drop-in clinic that they can go to?
Administrative savings: Don’t forget that the cost of a flu vaccination programme is not simply a matter of the cost of vaccine doses and nurse time, but also includes the amount of administrative time and effort your own staff have to put in, including staff time to attend the vaccination session, plus the cost and inconvenience if your provider lets you down on the day. Our free posters and online booking system will help you to advertise and run your flu programme most efficiently.
Providers offering unrealistically low costs: an easy way to cut costs is to give you less for your money. In the world of flu vaccines, this means reduced choice, reduced reliability, reduced quality of service, plus a risk of having to spend much more to put things right. (We are aware of a recent incident where a single incompetently-conducted flu vaccination session resulted in over £25,000 of additional costs to investigate and put things right, plus on-going litigation against the provider concerned.)
We believe that our track record of reliable, professional cost-effective service is among the best in the UK. Our dedicated team looks forward to serving your needs throughout the 2017/18 flu season.
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