Community pharmacies in Scotland have started vaccinating patients against flu for what is thought to be the first time.
The vaccinations are being provided as part of pilot programmes in two local health boards, NHS Lothian and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde. A spokesperson for the Scottish government told The Pharmaceutical Journal that they believed this to be the first round of community pharmacy flu vaccinations in Scotland.
The government said the outcomes of the pilots will “inform next steps” for the administering of flu vaccines in community pharmacy.
As of 1 October 2019, patients in NHS Lothian aged between 18 and 64 years who are registered at one of three GP clusters — two in Edinburgh and one in East Lothian — and are living with a health condition are eligible for a free flu vaccine at 1 of the 60 community pharmacies in the health board.
NHS Lothian told The Pharmaceutical Journal that the patient group was targeted to improve its low uptake of the flu vaccine.
Alison McCallum, director of public health and health policy at NHS Lothian, said the programme “will run until 31 March 2020, after which a full evaluation to determine the pilot’s success and impact will be completed”.
“This pilot is part of our continued development and testing of different models for delivering vaccinations as part of the vaccine transformation programme,” she added.
The evaluation is expected to assess whether offering access to the flu vaccine through community pharmacy improves uptake.
Both pilots were developed as part of the Scottish government’s three-year vaccination transformation programme (VTP).
The VTP started on 1 April 2018 with the aim of developing proposals for the future delivery of vaccines on the “presumption that GPs/primary care will no longer be the default preferred provider”.
Community pharmacies in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde have also started offering the flu vaccination service from 4 November 2019.
Pharmacists in Glasgow can provide the vaccine to a wider range of patients registered with a GP in the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area, including those aged over 65 years old, carers, and at-risk patients aged between 18 and 65 years.
In the health board’s service level agreement, it says the pilot scheme is “operating as part of the VTP in developing and evaluating alternative options in time for April 2021, when flu vaccination will no longer be part of the general medical services contract” provided by GPs.
The Pharmaceutical Journal approached the health board for comment and details on the number of pharmacies participating in the pilot.
A spokesperson for the Scottish government said it would “consider the outcomes of local community pharmacy vaccination pilots in NHS Lothian and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde to inform the Scottish government’s next steps”.
Pharmacists and GPs in Scotland are given £7.67 for every vaccine administered. This compares with £9.58 in England.