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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.’