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Published: 29 April, 2020

A round-up of the news for primary care


Influenza vaccination can now be offered to all patients

As of Wednesday, 29 April 2020, the influenza vaccine can now be offered to all patients, including those not eligible for funded vaccination, i.e. people who wish to pay for the vaccine themselves. However, vaccination should continue to be prioritised for any remaining high-risk people eligible for a funded vaccine. Waitlists are to be expected.

Update: vaccinations for children aged 6-35 months with Afluria Quad Junior should currently be reserved only for those eligible for funded vaccinations, for more information, see here

Funding application approvals have been temporarily extended

Special Authorities (SA), Named Patient Pharmaceutical Assessment (NPPA) and other exceptional circumstance approvals that were due to expire during March or April have now been extended for three months. Changes will be applied automatically in the Electronic Special Authority System. This means:

  • Approvals due to expire on 31 March now expire on 30 June, 2020; approvals that expired before 31 March will not automatically be extended (a new submission will need to be made)
  • Approvals due to expire on 30 April now expire on 31 July, 2020

If a SA renewal application is made before the new expiry date – and it is approved – then the extension will be automatically incorporated into the new approval, e.g. a six-month renewal for a SA that expired on 30 April will now be extended to 31 October. Renewals for NPPA approvals can be made before their expiry date, however, PHARMAC will continue to decide their duration on a case-by-case basis.

Special Authority criteria have also been changed for a number of medicines during the COVID-19 pandemic to support the health sector by alleviating some testing or monitoring requirements that may otherwise interrupt access for some patients. The timeframe that these changes will remain in place has not yet been determined; PHARMAC will monitor and assess the situation as we move through different alert levels.

For a full list of medicines with amended access criteria, see here.

Hyoscine patches: as of 1 May 2020, initial applications for funded hyoscine hydrobromide patches (scopolamine) can now also be made for the symptomatic relief of respiratory secretions in patients receiving palliative care in the community if it is not possible to access injectable hyoscine (approvals valid for one month – this is a change related to the pandemic response).

Update on Noriday supplies

PHARMAC has updated their information about the supply of Noriday. Some supplies are now available, and orders are being filled at the wholesaler level. A further shipment of Noriday is due in early May and this will allow all back orders to be filled, and supply constraints to be removed.

Virtual consultations count towards visits for high user health card

Virtual consultations can be counted towards the 12 or more health practitioner consultations required over a 12-month period to qualify for a high user health card (HUHC) in patients with an ongoing medical condition. This should be documented in the patient's notes.

For more information on HUHCs, see here.

Back to work

As people begin to return to work, you may have an increase in enquiries about whether it is safe to do so. A reminder that household contacts of positive or suspected cases of COVID-19 are required to isolate for 14 days (or until COVID-19 is ruled out in a suspected case). Factsheets for contacts are available here. There should be a low threshold for testing suspected cases.

This Bulletin is supported by the South Link Education Trust

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