Boots in talks with NHS England on COVID-19 vaccination programme

Exclusive: The UK’s largest pharmacy chain is working with NHS England to determine how its involvement in the COVID-19 vaccination effort will work.

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Boots has “significant experience and expertise in delivering vaccination programmes”, said a spokesperson for the multiple

Pharmacy multiple Boots is “in conversations” with NHS England about how it can help provide COVID-19 vaccines to patients, it has said.

In a statement to The Pharmaceutical Journal, a spokesperson for the multiple said it was “ideally placed to support the government COVID-19 vaccination programme”.

Initial details of the programme were announced on 9 November 2020 in a letter to GPs, requesting that primary care networks (PCNs) designate one site each from which a COVID-19 vaccine could be delivered.

An NHS England official later said in a webinar on 18 November 2020 for community pharmacy staff and GPs that there were “a number of different ways” for pharmacists to get involved in the delivery programme, through “mass vaccination sites or trust sites, or the PCN sites”.

But only a “small number of community pharmacies” would be commissioned as vaccination sites through a local enhanced service.

A slide accompanying the webinar advised community pharmacy contractors who want to help with the vaccination programme to contact their local PCN or regional NHS England pharmacy contracts team.

However, larger community pharmacy providers were advised to contact NHS England’s central pharmacy team.

The spokesperson for Boots said the multiple has “significant experience and expertise in delivering vaccination programmes and activating our extensive pharmacy and colleague network to support public health initiatives”.

“We continue to work closely and are in conversations with NHS England to understand the role that Boots can take in supporting this programme.”

In March 2020, Boots began supporting the government’s roll-out of testing facilities across the UK, and the company estimates that Boots staff have conducted nearly 1.5 million COVID-19 tests to date.

A spokesperson for LloydsPharmacy told The Pharmaceutical Journal that it was also “considering offering a COVID-19 vaccination service, as part of the NHS programme”.

However, they said the multiple “requires further details of requirements before we can ascertain which pharmacies would be viable to deliver at scale”.

“We would be very pleased to support a programme that allowed our most vulnerable to access the vaccine in a local and trusted environment, and have a number of skilled colleagues ready to embark on this historic vaccination programme,” they continued.

“We need to understand whether this will be in the form of supporting a mass vaccination centre, local GPs, or indeed through our own programme of pharmacies or potentially other models of delivery.”

Speaking at the webinar, Jill Loader, deputy director of pharmacy commissioning at NHS England and NHS Improvement, said community pharmacies could be called on to fill in gaps where provision from PCN sites is insufficient.

“Down the line, we expect there to be other vaccines available … We might well look at changing the model as the vaccination characteristics change, so this isn’t the model for ever,” she added.

“This is trying to anticipate the initial vaccines that we might have into the supply chain and we’ll continually be reviewing that.”

The Pharmaceutical Journal has approached NHS England for further comment.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, Boots in talks with NHS England on COVID-19 vaccination programme;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2020.20208568

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