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GPs could lose out as national flu campaign is opened up to pharmacies

GP practices risk being left out of pocket as pharmacies across England are to be invited to administer flu jabs to at-risk groups this year.

Patients over 18 years of age targeted in the national campaign, such as the elderly and patients with asthma or other long-term conditions, will be told they can choose between going to their GP or a community pharmacy to get their jab, starting from September.

But the GPC said most practices would already have ordered this year’s stock of vaccine and warned the decision could make it harder for practices to identify who they need to contact.

Announcing the deal, which will see pharmacies paid £9.14 per jab administered, NHS England and the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) said the move should help ‘capture hard-to-reach patients who would not otherwise take up the vaccine’.

But GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said there was no evidence getting pharmacies to deliver flu jabs would improve uptake and that the scheme could actually make it harder for GPs to follow up their at-risk patients because of a lack of ‘proper protocols that allow accurate records to be shared between pharmacists and GPs’.

He said: ‘At the moment the NHS bureaucracy is not flexible enough to allow this to happen speedily. Failures in data collection can make it more difficult for flu immunisation targets to be met and for GP practices to identify which patients need to be immunised.’

Dr Nagpaul further called for compensation to be paid to GP practices left out of pocket because of the late announcement.

He told Pulse: ‘It is not appropriate for this to be brought it at this time of the year when practices had ordered vaccine at the beginning of the year, specifically based around the expectation to immunise as they have in previous years.

‘It is crucial GPs are not penalised now for having over-ordered stocks if they are not now going to be needed – it is vital there is some compensation and the Government ensures suppliers do not penalise GPs financially, given this has been introduced at this very late stage.’

Last year, the GPC called for local schemes that involved pharmacies supplying flu jabs to stop and LMC leaders in one area were successful in delaying a local pharmacy scheme introduced after GP practices had already ordered vaccine stock.

A spokesperson for NHS Employers said: ‘GPs will continue to provide flu vaccinations under their contract agreement, as negotiated between the GPC and NHS Employers (on behalf of NHS England).

‘Having community pharmacy as an additional provider will help to increase choice for this service, meaning a greater proportion of at-risk patients will be able to access this important intervention, including those patients who may not otherwise have been vaccinated.’

Related images

  • Elderly vaccine injection

Readers' comments (28)

  • Typical
    When are doctors going to actually wake up and see that the core work is being removed.
    Pretty soon you'll all be left with only the dregs (most of which you have anyway) that no one else wants.

    I'm not surprised either by the poor impotent response from the GPC.

    Mr hunt has doctors really stitched up. He has public support to hammer you, the media savage attack dogs there behind as well as a supportive boss with a pretty strong mandate from the electorate for another 5 years in power.

    The media will spin this a better value for money by giving it to pharmacists or something along the lines of a more fair "redistribution of GPs overinflated 250k salaries" or perhaps "pharmacists doing primary care work because doctors to busy at the 19th hole"

    Well done again BMA/GPC for being out manoeuvred once more.

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  • This is fascinating. As a dispensing practice we lost 50% of our dispensing income recently because a pharmacy opened nearby. Why can pharmacists have it all ways. Where was patient choice when they all wanted to remain with our dispensary? I am also damned if I am going to send reminders to patients to be vaccinated, at my own cost, for someone else to profit from it.

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  • Unless we are prepared to hand in our resignation then nothing will happen . Unfortunately this may be what HMG is angling for . We should only supply what is paid for . Perhaps the BMA could work out a tariff like A+E

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  • I realise I will be accused of being a troll but this issue was clearly on the horizon. Practice flu rates for those at risks were low and falling which is why NHSE has tried using pharmacies. Personally I think practices need to respond by working together to raise the at risk rates.

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  • 'working together' 'federations'..really are the cure looking for a disease.

    General practice works efficiently, unbalance that and the risk is you worsen the whole system.

    these 'pseudo free markets' are really led by ideology not science, truly appalling

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  • Competition is good.Dr Nagpaul's response is laughable.

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  • At £7.95 per flu jab in target populations it is, of itself, not a viable amount. It is augmented by buying the vaccine at discount and the repayments by the PPA. This doubles the effective payments and makes it worth doing.

    If buying becomes a more risky proposition and the target groups are picked off by the chemist then the whole scenario becomes non viable.

    Result is that I, for one, would stop providing the flu jab.

    Is this the aim by the Government? Would then their private partners take over? I somewhat doubt that the coverage would be the same and have similar costs. Result would be the patient and the tax payer would lose.

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  • don't see why pharmacies shouldn't be able to administer flu shot. I understand it eats in to practice profit but we cant sit here and say its unreasonable for them to do it and it may be easier for patients to turn up at the pharmacy

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  • There is nothing wrong with opening up flu jabs - two things, however, to keep in mind.
    First, why start this now when orders have been placed and can't be revoked. We can only return up to 10% of unused vacs so who is going to reimburse buying expenses.
    Second, why GPs are being offered £7.95 while Pharmacists £9.14 as inferred from the article and post 9:11?

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  • Anonymous | Sessional/Locum GP | 20 July 2015 9:23pm

    You really have no idea do you? As already pointed out

    1. We have to order the vaccine several months in advance. Practices estimate the number needed by counting their eligible patients. If this becomes uncertain, practices will order less then they'd need inorder to avoid loss. This could mean patients are left without vaccine when we run out.

    2. As patients that will require home visit (nursing homes, house bound patients) for flu jab is tarriffed at same patients as patients that attends surgery, it may become non viable to continue this service if "easier" patients are picked off by the pharmacy

    3. As the profit becomes less, surgeries may simply stop providing this (it is not core GMS provision, it is ES). Patients will be given no choice but to find a participating pharmacy.

    4. Who will manage the paper work? Practices will be inundated with "flu jab given" paper from pharmacy - about 1500+ at my practice. Practices will have to administer this at a loss and hence patients may experience reduced service to cover the cost. And how will we prevent same patient given flu jab twice in a season?

    5. How will pharmacy manage this in timely manner without having a list of eligible patients? We administer 50% of the jabs in the first 2 weeks of October (yes, partners come in on Sat to give this too). It's no good if pharmacies are giving opportunistic jabs at end of Jan, although they'll still get paid for doing this.

    6. And what about allergies, anticoag etc. Will the pharmacy know this?

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