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GP practice texts patients about flu jab to gain edge on pharmacy rivals



An Oxfordshire GP practice has texted eligible patients to encourage them get their flu vaccine there in order to boost the practice’s income.

The text from staff at Abingdon Surgery in Abingdon, Oxfordshire read: ‘Dear [patient]. We are now taking bookings for our autumn flu clinics. Seasonal vaccinations provide a valuable source of income for the practice, so please support your surgery.’ 

The practice sent the message in response to losing more patients to pharmacies during the last flu season, according to practice manager Flynn Reid.
 
She said: ‘A lot of patients don’t think about how GP surgeries are funded and when we explain that we are private businesses that need income to survive, they are very supportive.’

In 2015, NHS England decided that pharmacies could start providing NHS influenza vaccinations, an announcement that was met with wariness by GP leaders, who thought that renewing the scheme could destabilise the programme delivered by GP practices.
 
Ms Reid added that patients are already calling the practice to book their flu jabs as a result of the text, but said the practice will have to wait until the end of the season to find out if it has ‘reduced the numbers that have gone to the pharmacy’ instead.

Oxfordshire CCG said that it is their priority to get ‘as many people as possible vaccinated against flu as part of keeping well this winter’.
 
A CCG spokesperson said: ‘Flu vaccination is particularly important for patients in “at risk” groups, such as people with long term conditions, people aged over 65, young children and pregnant women.’
 
The flu immunisation programme is commissioned by NHS England and Public Health England, which make funds available to both GP practices and pharmacies to administer their vaccines, the spokesperson added.
 
They said: ‘As independent businesses, GP practices make their own decisions about how to communicate with patients to encourage them to take up prevention and screening opportunities.’
 
NHS England recently published guidance suggesting practices raise awareness about the upcoming flu season via traditional communication channels, including text messages.

A version of this article was first published by Pulse sister title Management in Practice