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GPs could lose out as national flu campaign is opened up to pharmacies



GP practices risk being left out of pocket as pharmacies across England are to be invited to administer flu jabs to at-risk groups this year.

Patients over 18 years of age targeted in the national campaign, such as the elderly and patients with asthma or other long-term conditions, will be told they can choose between going to their GP or a community pharmacy to get their jab, starting from September.

But the GPC said most practices would already have ordered this year’s stock of vaccine and warned the decision could make it harder for practices to identify who they need to contact.

Announcing the deal, which will see pharmacies paid £9.14 per jab administered, NHS England and the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) said the move should help ‘capture hard-to-reach patients who would not otherwise take up the vaccine’.

But GPC chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said there was no evidence getting pharmacies to deliver flu jabs would improve uptake and that the scheme could actually make it harder for GPs to follow up their at-risk patients because of a lack of ‘proper protocols that allow accurate records to be shared between pharmacists and GPs’.

He said: ‘At the moment the NHS bureaucracy is not flexible enough to allow this to happen speedily. Failures in data collection can make it more difficult for flu immunisation targets to be met and for GP practices to identify which patients need to be immunised.’

Dr Nagpaul further called for compensation to be paid to GP practices left out of pocket because of the late announcement.

He told Pulse: ‘It is not appropriate for this to be brought it at this time of the year when practices had ordered vaccine at the beginning of the year, specifically based around the expectation to immunise as they have in previous years.

‘It is crucial GPs are not penalised now for having over-ordered stocks if they are not now going to be needed – it is vital there is some compensation and the Government ensures suppliers do not penalise GPs financially, given this has been introduced at this very late stage.’

Last year, the GPC called for local schemes that involved pharmacies supplying flu jabs to stop and LMC leaders in one area were successful in delaying a local pharmacy scheme introduced after GP practices had already ordered vaccine stock.

A spokesperson for NHS Employers said: ‘GPs will continue to provide flu vaccinations under their contract agreement, as negotiated between the GPC and NHS Employers (on behalf of NHS England).

‘Having community pharmacy as an additional provider will help to increase choice for this service, meaning a greater proportion of at-risk patients will be able to access this important intervention, including those patients who may not otherwise have been vaccinated.’