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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)

  • Anonymous | GP Partner13 Oct 2015 2:53pm

    Wish we had the facebook likes on here!

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  • Competition is always healthy, sooner or later. Lack of communication and timely warning is shameful however.

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  • It is time GPs can offer the same service that the pharmacies do.
    1) flu vaccines incentives extra £3 per patient
    2) allowed to offer flu vaccine to any one who can pay, £7
    Put everything on a level playing field, so we can charge our NHS patients for the flu vaccine

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  • I'm sure you can charge patients if you want. £80 to sign a form so a vaccine should be about £500!

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  • As a patient last year there was a two month waiting time for a flu jab for vulnerable people like me suffering from diabetes. I think choice and patient wait times are the drivers here

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  • I wasn't particularly interested in providing the flu service this year for a number of reasons. I wasn't given much time to prepare, I had enough work to do already and I also never imagined I would be administering injections when I trained.

    However, faced with childish negativity from my nearest surgery before I'd even decided whether to go ahead, I decided to give it a go. I'm glad I did as I've found it very easy and patients are most grateful for the convenient service I offer.

    Patients or services do not belong to anyone. Patients choose the service provider and services are commissioned by the powers that be. If you want to argue that a pharmacist can't give a flu jab then you can't be taken seriously as protectionism is clouding your judgement. Also arguing that a limited company is different to a partnership falls under the same category with regard to where the profit goes.

    It's an extra £1.50 to cover sharps bins etc that we don't usually have, but that GPs do. Would you like to be paid twice for that 5.12pm?

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  • Pharmacist 5.35pm. You have no idea what you are talking about. We are not allowed to offer private flu vaccinations to our patients. Read the rules before you make stupid comments.

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  • Pharmacist 5.35pm. You have no idea what you are talking about. We are not allowed to offer private flu vaccinations to our patients. Read the rules before you make stupid comments.

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  • Apologies. I don't have access to your rules. Saying that, £4 profit per jab won't make any of us rich.

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  • "Patients or services do not belong to anyone..." - quite. However, changing the service when it is too late for those committed to vaccine orders and given no warning that the service was to be changed is unfair, as is giving patients the impression that they will be helping (rather then the contrary) "their" GP by letting a pharmacist inject them. The published intention when this was announced late July was to target those hard to reach patients - I do not think the vaccine has been given to any of "my" patients who have not had the vaccine year after year at the surgery and for whom a vaccine had been ordered. Adding insult to injury, this is being spun as helping to relieve winter pressures on GPs. Cherry picking services like this will destabilise general practice.

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