This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

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)

  • The profit in a flu jab is pretty good. We employ a locum pharmacist at £25 an hour to cover whilst I do jabs and we still do ok out of them even though we do nowhere near as many as a surgery does.

    So where surgeries may not make as much as they used to due to a volume decrease, unless nurses get more than a locum pharmacist it should still be viable.

    I await a reply questioning my knowledge and calling me stupid, but I've seen the numbers.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Well, this is awkward. Because we have Pulse, here claiming one thing, and C+D over there claiming the opposite.

    Is it maybe possible that certain individual pharmacies AND certain individual practices are up to no good, but such a minority of both doesn't represent the wider profession of either.

    Is it also possible that everyone stops throwing anger and accusations at each other and instead starts throwing it higher up the food chain to where the actual blame lies.

    It's in the government's best interests to have warring factions, as it distracts from what's really going on here. In the current climate, we need to be standing together, not being manipulated into this petty to-ing and fro-ing.

    We're squabbling away, and it's exactly where they want us.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment


    Get your flu jab at your GPs, stop putting money into private companies and shareholders.
    NHS England in their infinite wisdom are paying private companies to give the Flu Vaccination this year, This is despite GPs having already ordered in, and payed for, all the vaccines they thought they needed way back in February.
    Chemists are misrepresenting the truth and behaving like they are doing GPs a favour when in fact they are steeling the business. All's fare in love and war you say, but this will leave hundreds of thousands of pounds of unused flu vaccinations on the shelf. Wasted NHS money.
    Rather than paying private companies and the money going to share holders it would normally go to providing more services at your GP practice.
    USE it or LOSE it. Your choice.
    Support your GPs.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • We know all hope of a sane discussion is lost when the 'use it or lose it' cry rings out.

    If you really are a GP Partner then you will know from first hand experience that partnerships are private businesses. You can't be self-employed when it suits and work for the NHS when it doesn't. Well apart from when it comes to pensions that is.

    The money on flu jabs is spent by the practice on a speculative basis. It is not lost to the NHS if vaccine goes to waste. This is just not true. This is a professional site. You might think we're idiots 'steeling' your business, but we're not quite as daft as you think or hope.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • After I have administered the flu vaccine to the patient, I update their records. BP check, Alcohol consumption, smoking status, weight etc. I also book overdue chronic disease reviews.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I think the problem here is due to bizarre commissioning decisions. 2 services, complimentary in many ways, often working together. Specialists in the patient/diagnosis working with specialists in their medications. The other problem is that primary care and GPs seem to be in the firing line for whatever sinister scheme and motive the govt has. But petty squabbling doesn't help either. Plus patients don't really seem to care where they get their jab, as long as its done. My fear is, as one other commentator mentioned, that many pharmacies are owned by the big "multiples". Money going offshore, not being supported by tax revenue back into the system. Shareholders profiting.
    I have a massive conflict of interest to report, as my pharmacy opens on Monday. We had a competing application as a high dispensing practice (as was) and have been lucky enough to win, and open next week after much concern, worry and a massive loan. I didn't really anticipate becoming a pharmacy owner, I just have, but in order to safeguard the future of our GMS services.

    So a foot in both camps, and whilst exhausting, if you get a chance to consider it as a GP surgery it's worth it. There is a surplus of pharmacists at present, and many I've spoken too seem keen to work in independents, rather than the multiples, but I can only vouch for my case.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I have read Dr Piccaver's thoughts on a few things and generally agree with him. I would be interested to hear what he thinks about his experiences as a pharmacist owner as time goes on.

    I feel that he could highlight the pressures that both professions face, rather than us both thinking that the other has it easy.

    I'd wait to hear from him as to whether he still thinks it's worth it or not!!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • "You can't be self-employed when it suits and work for the NHS when it doesn't. Well apart from when it comes to pensions that is."

    I don't understand this apparent dig; as self employed we pay both employer and employee contribution to our pension.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Anonymous | GP Partner15 Oct 2015 8:24am

    Your pension contribution is in your increased global sum. If you choose to take that as salary rather than put it into pensions then that's your problem.

    It's just the same as the NHS putting into your pension pot, just that you have the flexibility.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Not when the figure bandied about as "GP earnings" includes both pension contributions but this is not mentioned, nor, come to that, is the lack of paid holidays, sick leave, etc, when supposedly comparing like-for-like. We work for the NHS and qualify for the NHS pension scheme - what's your gripe?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

View results 10 results per page20 results per page50 results per page

Have your say