A practice manager has written to the head of the NHS in England asking for advice on what to do with hundreds of flu vaccinations that the practice will have left over this year, after a new scheme allowing pharmacists to vaccinate patients was brought in at the eleventh hour.
Elaine Smith, practice manager at the West Walk Surgery in Bristol, said the practice is likely to have around 350 unusable vaccines left at the end of the flu season as a result of pharmacists ‘poaching’ their patients.
She added that by a ‘fag packet’ estimate, this means across the whole country over a million flu vaccines will end up in landfill this year, costing general practice nearly £4m ‘that could have been spent on caring for patients’.
The letter, addressed to NHS chief executive Simon Stevens, read: ‘I’d be really grateful if you could advise me what you think I should do with the flu vaccinations that I ordered in October 2014, many of which will now be of no use to my practice.
‘The sudden swerve to the contract for provision of flu vaccinations that crept up on us in September 2015 has had a significant impact on general practice.’
NHS England insists the pharmacy scheme was not designed to compete with practices but that it will increase patients’ choice ’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’.
However, local GP leaders have already warned that the flu vaccination campaign has become a ‘shambles’ this year as a result of the pharmacy scheme, with pharmacists being advised by NHS managers to tell patients they should get the flu jab at the pharmacy this year because their GP is too busy.
The GPC has warned the scheme is unlikely to improve uptake in at-risk groups based on experience from local schemes – and called for compensation to be paid to practices, who are likely to lose out having already ordered enough vaccine to cover their eligible patients for this season.
Ms Smith said she can only return 10% of her stock and estimated the loss to her own practice will be around £8,000.
She wrote: ‘The lack of foresight in suddenly pulling that funding from general practice makes me once again question the decision making at higher levels.’