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Pharmacies ‘discouraging’ patients from GP flu jabs

Exclusive Pharmacies are encouraging patients to cancel vaccination appointments with their GP and have the jab at the pharmacy on the spot, GP leaders have claimed.

At least three LMCs have reported that pharmacists are directing patients away from GP appointments, so they can administer the vaccines themselves.

The GPC has said it is looking into the issue, and that there are potentially more areas where it is happening, and called on practices to report such concerns to their LMC or the GPC itself.

But pharmacists claim that they had been told by NHS managers that doing the flu jabs themselves would be relieving the work on GPs.

Disputes have occurred since pharmacists began offering the seasonal flu vaccine this winter to boost uptake amongst at-risk and hard-to-reach groups.

In Doncaster, the LMC received three complaints from practices reporting that local pharmacies had encouraged patients to cancel vaccination appointments

Doncaster LMC medical secretary Dr Dean Eggitt said: ‘Three of our GP practices complained to the LMC about it, that pharmacies have been taking patients ad hoc even though they’ve got GP appointments, and they’ve said “we’ll do the vaccine now and you go back and cancel your appointment”.

However, he added that in most cases, this was not malicious, and they were following instructions from NHS England: ‘Pharmacy managers have been told, “please help out your local practice by doing lots of flu jabs, and you’ll be helping GPs by doing this”.’

Chief officer of Doncaster Local Pharmaceutical Committee Nick Hunter said: ‘We understand this service has been commissioned nationally because GPs are under increasing pressure and keep telling commissioners that it is the case that they can’t do more.’

Elsewhere, in Cleveland, the LMC said it had heard reports that pharmacies were proactively contacting care homes to offer the flu jab.

Its bulletin this month said: ‘Additionally, we have been aware that in some circumstance the pharmacies have suggested they are vaccinating on behalf of practices. We have contacted the LPC to challenge/prevent this misleading information.’

In Gloucestershire, lay secretary Mike Foster said: ‘We have various reports within our own area which we are working on with the LPC and I gather the GPC is putting together a dossier of things that are going wrong which they can then discuss with NHS England.’

However, he added: ‘To start casting aspersions will just exacerbate hard feeling between the professions when really we should be working together for the good of patients.’

GPC deputy chair Dr Richard Vautrey told Pulse: ‘We are aware of practices across England concerned about the actions of some pharmacists in trying to discourage patients from attending their GP as normal for their flu immunisation.

‘If practices have any clear evidence of this happening they should report it to their LMC and NHS England as it is clearly unprofessional and can only damage the usually good relationship between GPs and pharmacists.’


Readers' comments (94)

  • I hope the LMCs give them hell on this.

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  • So far ones done are the ones we usually do - so wont increase rate, just less likely we'll do it next year!

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  • It's utterly insane to commission the same service from two sets of providers.

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  • Yet another way our remuneration is reduced.

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  • Why is it insane to offer the service from 2 providers when:

    1. uptake could be improved - the aim is to increase uptake. GPs are complaining about capacity so here's a service that can help manage workload yet GPs & it seems PMs are complaining. you can't have it all ways.
    2. accessibility to the pharmacy is easier & they are open longer - evenings and weekends which suits many people especially the working population.
    3. what about patient choice?
    4. pharmacies, just like GPs are independent contractors who are contracted to deliver PROFESSIONAL services on behalf of the NHS, just like.....GPs.

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  • GPs need to go private as they are getting the worst of both worlds - being dumped on by a monopoly provider and not being able to handle competition.

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  • Hopefully both GPs and pharmacists will have lots of unused vaccination left over that we can merrily fill our sharps bins with because neither party had any idea of the volume of work. Yet another totally stupid NHSE idea.

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  • @ 11.01am

    Makes a lot of sense. Its just that a lot of pharmacies are now oliopolies - virtual monopolies. The likes of Boots (US owned) and Lloyds (owned by a massive German conglomerate head quartered in Frankfurt) are sucking huge amounts of NHS money out of the country. Can you really say that pharmacists who work for such companies, probably the most part now, are 'independent contractors'? Pharmacists managed by non clinically trained managers and bullied into hitting MUR targets etc? The pharmacy model is perhaps where GPs will be in 15 in 20 years time and it scares a lot them quite frankly.

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  • No one covered in glory here.

    Competition is intended to create savings and drive service quality, but the NHSE don't have a clue how to handle it, so it will just create waste.

    As practices we must wake up and realise that the service is crashing, and we have to change model.

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  • The fee for each flu jab should be the same,but pharmacy administered flus atrract a better tarriff than the GP administerd flus.Is this fair,doesnt feel like it.

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