The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has said it is “shocking” that primary care pharmacists in England and Wales are not eligible for free flu vaccinations, and has called for an urgent review of the situation.
Currently, pharmacists in England can be offered the vaccine by their employer but they are not an eligible patient group under the advanced flu vaccination service. Similarly, in Wales, guidance says that NHS organisations should offer the vaccine to all employees involved in direct patient care, but that independent primary care providers — including community pharmacies and GP surgeries — should only offer it to frontline staff “as part of their occupational health responsibilities”.
In contrast, Scotland is offering free flu vaccinations to community pharmacists and GP staff.
In a statement published on 16 September 2021, the RPS said it has expressed concern to NHS bodies that “despite the crucial role pharmacists play, they are not being offered a free flu vaccine to protect themselves and the public”.
Claire Anderson, president of the RPS, said it was “shocking that pharmacists in England and Wales, who have been on the frontline throughout this pandemic, are not eligible for free flu vaccinations to protect themselves and the public”.
“As we have seen over the past 18 months, pharmacists are not dispensable, and we are therefore calling on the NHS to offer free flu vaccinations to pharmacists and pharmacy teams in both England and Wales, as is the case in Scotland.”
Alastair Buxton, director of NHS Services at the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), told The Pharmaceutical Journal that “over the last three years, when discussing the arrangements for the forthcoming flu vaccination service, the PSNC has requested that NHS England and NHS Improvement allow community pharmacy staff to be vaccinated under the advanced service.
“We are continuing to push them to consider this for the current season.”
A spokesperson for the Welsh government said that a free NHS flu vaccine is available to anyone in an at-risk group or aged over 50 years.
“The vaccination of pharmacy staff not in these groups is their employer’s occupational health responsibility. There are many benefits from ensuring pharmacy staff are protected from the effects of seasonal influenza,” they said.