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NHS in London renews pharmacy flu vaccination scheme

NHS England is recommissioning the pharmacy-run flu vaccination scheme again in London, despite concerns the scheme has not improved uptake and led to increased workloads for GP practices, Pulse has learnt.

Pharmacy London – representing community pharmacists – said NHS England London Region will be recommissioning the pharmacy vaccination service again, for both seasonal influenza and pneumococcal vaccinations in ‘at-risk’ groups.

Pharmacy London chief executive Rekha Shah told Pulse she was ‘pleased at this early confirmation’ of renewal of the scheme, which ‘means pharmacies can start planning for the coming season’ and also ‘helps our general practice colleagues with their planning’.

It comes after an evaluation of the London scheme recently published in the journal BMJ Open found it had failed to improve uptake of the vaccinations in at-risk groups, led to duplication of record keeping and data going missing.

However, Ms Shah said that, contrary to the study’s conclusions, the pharmacy scheme had ‘potentially actually helped to prevent the drop in uptake that was seen nationally’ last year, which was due to ‘the milder weather [and] the impact from the adverse publicity regarding vaccine efficacy the year before’.

She added: ’At the London level, planning can start early regarding improvements to communication and reporting of vaccinations. Therefore an early decision can only be helpful for all concerned.’

NHS England declined to comment but said it would be announcing arrangements for the national flu vaccination scheme ‘in the coming weeks’.

Readers' comments (2)

  • Sorry Ms Shah, but I fail to see how this can help GPs with their planning. We had to return 350 of our 1600 flu vaccs this year because a couple of local pharmacies had carried out the vaccinations instead. Patients who were already booked in at the surgery were persuaded to have them at the pharmacy when they attended to pick up prescriptions, and even worse patients who came to our Saturday morning drop in clinics and nipped across the road to collect prescriptions in the few minutes they had to wait to be immunised were also vaccinated there and then with the pharmacist saying they wouldn't need to wait even a couple of minutes and that they were "helping" the GPs! How on earth can we plan when we will have absolutely no idea of how many vaccinations we need. As we have to order a year in advance we have had to make a complete guess and we could potentially be left with a huge amount of unused stock.

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  • This is very good news. As a pharmacist, I fully share the concerns of GP colleagues as we have many of the same concerns, having to ensure there is enough stock ordered into the supply chain without knowing how much of it will have to be written off at our own expense.
    Pharmacists are fully trained and competent to carry out flu vaccinations and will continue to evolve into new clinical areas which are appropriate for 5 years of training and a Masters degree. And with NHS funding cuts in pharmacy this is something we simply cannot turn away from. What we must now do is take a collaborative approach and lose the ‘them & us’ rhetoric. Pharmacists should absolutely NOT be poaching patients who have already booked in for a vaccination with their GP...Pharmacists MUST signpost back to the GP for further vaccinations we are not commissioned to provide...Pharmacists MUST notify the GP of any vaccinations carried out so that records can be kept upto date.
    Pharmacists do have great potential to reach a significant population who cannot easily access their GP, such as the under 65s who are in work, carers who are too busy to be able to make an appointment, and where annual figures are consistently below the 75% uptake target. The challenge from GPs is for Pharmacists to not cherry pick the over 65s and, whilst there are always those who will welcome the convenience we offer and should be allowed to do so, there needs to be a mechanism for signposting other groups into pharmacy...perhaps additional funding/subsidising of GP letters that include pharmacy as an option for anyone under 65?
    With this early decision from NHS London, it will be good to understand how the professions can come together and work together rather than against each other. Comments here are not meant to be a solution, simply trying to open up the debate.

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