GP and pharmacist representatives have signed an agreement to collaborate to increase the take-up of the flu vaccine in Wales.
The memorandum of understanding, signed by BMA Wales and Community Pharmacy Wales, sets out the joint aim to bring overall uptake to the 75% target set out by the Welsh Government during the next flu season.
Recommendations to GP practices include sending patients to nearby pharmacies to get their vaccination if they cannot, or are not willing to, attend the flu clinic.
Meanwhile, community pharmacies will encourage patients to keep pre-booked flu vaccination appointments at their GP practice, while targeting hard-to-reach patients for vaccination.
The news comes as GP practices in England reported losing millions on ‘wasted’ flu vaccines when NHS England began paying pharmacies to compete for eligible patients.
GPC Wales chair Dr Charlotte Jones said the agreement was ‘another important step in the right direction towards collaborative working’.
She said: ‘It’s about pharmacists encouraging patients to attend their GP practice routinely for flu vaccination services, with pharmacists focusing on the hard-to-reach groups and those who clearly state they will not attend their GP surgery for vaccination.
‘It ensures the lines of communication between GPs and community pharmacists in Wales remain firmly open, with patients’ health as a shared priority.’
Community Pharmacy Wales chair Mark Griffiths said: ‘This voluntary compact between pharmacist and doctor puts the patient at its very heart, allowing more people to get vaccinated.
‘It also demonstrates that health professionals can work together in Wales in a way that meets the Welsh Government objectives for maximising access while at the same time taking the pressure off GPs.’
He added that he was hoping the agreenemt would reduce the number of flu-related hospital admissions.
There were 779 admissions for flu to Welsh hospitals last year, of which 125 people ended up in high dependency units.
Mr Griffiths said: ‘I’m confident that with proper co-ordination and increased vaccine uptake we can also alleviate the pressure on our hospitals too, which is again in line with the objectives of the Welsh Government and the broader health community.’
Key recommendations of the memorandum of understanding
- ensuring all staff are aware of who is eligible for a free flu vaccination and where this can be given;
- including community pharmacy flu vaccination provision in flu planning discussions at primary care cluster meetings and considering how cluster practices, nursing teams and community pharmacies can engage and vaccinate those who routinely decline flu vaccination, and reaching other vulnerable groups to enhance take up levels;
- informing community pharmacies when in-house vaccine supplies have been exhausted; and
- signposting patients who state they cannot attend flu vaccination clinics to community pharmacies.
For community pharmacists:
- community pharmacies informing the local GP practices as soon as possible that they are intending to offer flu vaccination during 2017/18;
- ensuring that all pharmacy staff are made aware of who is entitled to a free flu vaccination and where this can be given;
- encouraging patients who already have appointments made at GP practices to keep those appointments;
- targeting patients under 65 years of age in the “at risk” groups and those who do not routinely get vaccinated; and
- immunising individuals aged 65 years or over where the community pharmacist considers that the patient is unlikely to attend a GP practice for vaccination.