NHS managers have written to GPs and community pharmacists warning them not to undermine each other when promoting seasonal flu vaccination services.
NHS England (Central Midlands) wrote to all GP practices and community pharmacies in the Central Midlands area following reports of incidents of patients being discouraged from going to their local pharmacy for their flu vaccination.
The letter, which was signed by Di Pegg, head of primary care for NHS Central Midlands, and Bhavisha Pattani, its head of pharmacy, said that since the seasonal flu vaccination programme began for 2017–2018 NHS Central Midlands had been provided with evidence of “inappropriate materials and communications with patients”.
“We would like therefore to take this opportunity to remind all contractors that any promotion of the flu vaccination service, either verbally or written, must not be provided in any way as to undermine the service offered by either profession,” they wrote.
The letter stressed that “any evidence of such activity will be dealt with seriously by NHS England and may result in referral to the relevant professional regulator”. This includes “any insinuation or proclamation that vaccinations offered by another provider are less effective, less safe or that providers have lack of capacity to deliver the commissioned services”.
Commenting on the letter Pegg said: “Adults eligible for a free flu vaccination can choose whether they wish to receive their jab at their GP practice or at a local pharmacy.
“We want to make sure that there is no confusion among patients about where they can get their jab, so we are reminding all GP practices and pharmacies of the importance of consistent messaging.”
The letter follows reports of rising tensions between pharmacist and GPs after claims that one GP practice in the Midlands sent a text to patients saying that vaccines offered by community pharmacists were ‘less safe’ than those offered at local surgeries.
Chief officer of Doncaster, Rotherham and Nottinghamshire Local Pharmaceutical Committees, Nick Hunter, claimed patients had also been told that going to a pharmacy for the vaccine threatened the financial viability of GP practices.
And in Greater Manchester, the LPC also had to intervene after a GP displayed a poster claiming that it cost the NHS more if the flu vaccine was given by a community pharmacist.