The GMC and community pharmacy leaders have warned both GPs and pharmacists they must be ‘open and honest’ with the public, after saying both sides have been accused of trying to unfairly influence where patients go to have flu vaccinations on the NHS.
In a joint statement, the GMC along with the General Pharmaceutical Council and the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland, said GPs and pharmacists ‘must support informed decision making by patients’.
This ‘includes being open and honest at all times about where patients can receive NHS services, for example where… flu vaccinations are given’.
It comes after local GP leaders warned this year’s flu immunisation campaign risked becoming a ‘shambles’, amid poor uptake and confusion among the public following the introduction of the new national pharmacy flu vaccination service.
In some areas practices have reported that local pharmacies have been informing people their GP is too busy to give them the jab this year, although the GPC stressed that pharmacists were not necessarily doing this ‘out of malice’ but had been directed to do so by NHS England managers.
The statement adds that GPs and pharmacists must not allow ‘any interests they have, financial or otherwise, to affect the way they treat, refer or commission services for patients’.
And it warns that ‘evidence of inappropriate payments or attempts to deceive patients would raise questions about the professionalism of doctors and pharmacists, and could result in investigations by the GMC, GPhC and the Pharmaceutical Society NI’.
NHS England says the pharmacy scheme will help boost uptake of the vaccination in groups of at-risk patients who do not usually go to the GP for the jab.
But the GPC has warned it will simply pit pharmacists and GPs in competition with each other for the same patients – leaving practices at financial risk from being left with unused vaccines they cannot get refunds for.
One practice manager wrote to NHS chief executive Simon Stevens to complain, after estimating over one million vaccines could end up in landfill this year, costing general practice £4m.
So far, uptake in clinical risk groups is lagging well behind last year’s uptake – with the RCGP urging patients not to ‘shun’ reminders about the flu jab as practices were finding themselves left with ‘fridges full of unused vaccine’.