Open access article
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has made this article free to access in order to help healthcare professionals stay informed about an issue of national importance.
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Pharmacy negotiators have suggested contractors consider providing flu vaccinations off-premises during the 2020/2021 flu season to manage infection control during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a briefing for community pharmacy contractors, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) said it had started discussions with NHS England on changes to the flu vaccination service to enable it to be delivered “in a COVID-safe way”.
Pharmacy leaders previously told The Pharmaceutical Journal that infection control measures could cut community pharmacy’s capacity to deliver vaccinations by two-thirds and called for further guidance on the flu vaccination service for 2020/2021.
While the PSNC said in a statement that the guidance published on 3 July 2020 had “not yet been agreed and may never be agreed” by NHS England, the negotiators said they “strongly recommend that contractors use the information in the briefing document to plan how they may be able to provide a COVID-safe service”.
The document sets out five models that the PSNC has discussed with government officials, including providing vaccinations off-site, in marquees, town halls, religious venues, car parks and sports halls.
Under current regulations, pharmacists are able to provide vaccinations off-site at the request of the patient or at a “long-stay care home” after submitting “a completed copy of the ‘notification of intent to provide off-site NHS flu vaccinations’” form to the local NHS England team.
“[The PSNC] is seeking additional flexibilities for contractors, so they could provide the service in locations within the vicinity of the pharmacy that may provide greater space for patients, greater ability to manage patient flow to maintain social distancing, and better waiting facilities in the event of poor weather,” the briefing document said.
“An off-site provision would also allow normal pharmacy services and operations to continue in the pharmacy.”
The PSNC added that it was also asking NHS England for flexibility that would allow pharmacists to vaccinate care home staff in their place of work.
Pharmacists are currently able to vaccinate care home residents once their GP and the local NHS England team have been notified, while staff were expected to make their own flu vaccination arrangements.
The document also noted that that the government was still deciding on an extension to the scope of the vaccination programme after its advisors recommended the Department of Health and Social Care consider vaccinating the “entire UK population”.