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A faulty production line

GPs and pharmacists told to be ‘open and honest’ about flu vaccinations

The GMC and community pharmacy leaders have warned both GPs and pharmacists they must be ‘open and honest’ with the public, after saying both sides have been accused of trying to unfairly influence where patients go to have flu vaccinations on the NHS.

In a joint statement, the GMC along with the General Pharmaceutical Council and the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland, said GPs and pharmacists ‘must support informed decision making by patients’.

This ‘includes being open and honest at all times about where patients can receive NHS services, for example where… flu vaccinations are given’.

It comes after local GP leaders warned this year’s flu immunisation campaign risked becoming a ‘shambles’, amid poor uptake and confusion among the public following the introduction of the new national pharmacy flu vaccination service.

In some areas practices have reported that local pharmacies have been informing people their GP is too busy to give them the jab this year, although the GPC stressed that pharmacists were not necessarily doing this ‘out of malice’ but had been directed to do so by NHS England managers.

The statement adds that GPs and pharmacists must not allow ‘any interests they have, financial or otherwise, to affect the way they treat, refer or commission services for patients’.

And it warns that ‘evidence of inappropriate payments or attempts to deceive patients would raise questions about the professionalism of doctors and pharmacists, and could result in investigations by the GMC, GPhC and the Pharmaceutical Society NI’.

NHS England says the pharmacy scheme will help boost uptake of the vaccination in groups of at-risk patients who do not usually go to the GP for the jab.

But the GPC has warned it will simply pit pharmacists and GPs in competition with each other for the same patients – leaving practices at financial risk from being left with unused vaccines they cannot get refunds for.

One practice manager wrote to NHS chief executive Simon Stevens to complain, after estimating over one million vaccines could end up in landfill this year, costing general practice £4m.

So far, uptake in clinical risk groups is lagging well behind last year’s uptake – with the RCGP urging patients not to ‘shun’ reminders about the flu jab as practices were finding themselves left with ‘fridges full of unused vaccine’.

Readers' comments (19)

  • Great thats really helpful. Thanks both. Now this will solve the problem completely. What would we do without the GMC?

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  • You know what? Next year I'll not buy or give flu jabs. Send them all to the pharmacy. What would you reckon on the figures then?

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  • It is fairly simple -- We should tell patients that if they get their flu jab in the GP surgery they are supporting the NHS and maintaining services at the GP surgery.
    If they get it done at Boots or Superdrug they are supporting the privatisation of the health service and end of the NHS. Much of the profit will go overseas.

    Honest and truthful. Job done.

    Perhaps we should change our phone wait music to say:
    "We planned to hire another receptionist to answer your phonecalls, but that had to be shelved as too many people had their NHS flu jab at the chemist. Therefore you are just going to have to wait.

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  • Anonymous | GP Partner | 13 Nov 2015 9:02pm

    It is this kind of attitude that is being criticised and you don't even get it.

    Not at all honest or truthful.

    Getting your flu jab at the surgery does not support NHS services any more than getting one at a pharmacy.

    I own a private pharmacy and the income from flu jabs helps to pay for staff to dispense and man our phones. I would not bend the truth to suggest that they would lose their job or that I would not recruit if I didn't do flu jabs. We both have other revenue streams.

    Practices are businesses. If you don't have the income then isn't it better that those at the top take slightly less profit share than those at the bottom get their hours reduced or that a poorer service is provided due to not recruiting.

    Patients don't care if the money goes abroad or in your pocket, they just want the best service.

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  • Dear All,
    Being open and honest about flu vaccination, i am. I inform patients that there is no evidence from any program ever run in any country anywhere on the planet that shows benefit from the adminstration of non live attenuated flu vaccines to populations aged over 5 yrs. In short its a complete waste of time and money.
    Paul C

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  • I understand Boots doesn't pay any tax. We do.

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  • I'd be inclined to agree with GP @9.02. I don't pretend to know how pharmacies function but I do understand the potential effect on practices and thus NHS primary care when services are fragmented in this way. There is a bigger picture.

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  • One thing that NHSE has learned from all of this arguing. Doing flu jabs is more than worth our while financially.

    Expect a drop in tariff next year.

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  • Maybe the tariff for a pharmacy flu jab should be brought down to the level of general practice,a level playing field.

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  • It will.

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