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LloydsPharmacy has nominated several of its community pharmacies to lead COVID-19 vaccination centres, the multiple has confirmed.
This comes as local pharmaceutical committee (LPC) leaders have told The Pharmaceutical Journal that several pharmacies have registered their “future interest” in offering a COVID-19 vaccination service.
The NHS’s COVID-19 vaccination programme launched on 8 December 2020 with the vaccination of patients through ‘hospital hubs’. Vaccination services led by primary care networks (PCNs) are expected to start running on 15 December 2020.
NHS England previously said in November 2020 that it would be commissioning a “limited number” of community pharmacies to run local vaccination services where there was insufficient coverage from PCN-led services.
At the time, LloydsPharmacy said that it was considering offering a COVID-19 vaccination service, later confirming to The Pharmaceutical Journal on 7 December 2020 that it had “nominated pharmacies and will share more information when we’re able to”.
However, a document published on 27 November 2020 said that pharmacy contractors could submit an application marked “future site nomination” for their site to be considered later, as vaccine supply increases.
Pharmacy contractors had until 6 December 2020 to submit their applications to NHS England and can expect to hear back on 18 December 2020 with a decision from the national team.
Nick Hunter, chief officer of Nottinghamshire, Rotherham and Doncaster LPCs, said: “The number of expressions of interest exceeded expectations with applications in the order of many tens, and from a good range of independents and multiples.”
“A number of those were for future interest, but certainly plenty to provide a credible back up option for the [integrated care systems] and scope for capacity expansion when required as more vaccines become available.”
Faisal Chowdhury, pharmacy integration lead at North East London LPC, said NHS England had told his LPC that “that there has been a considerable application from community pharmacies in London to participate and assist in the delivery of the COVID vaccination”.
“From published requirements for community pharmacies to participate, it was evident that the vast majority of our contractor base will not meet the criteria hence the energy has been to look if collaborations will provide that opportunity,” he said.
“The LPC office was inundated with queries and, from the conversations that we have had, I can verify that a significant number of contractors were enthusiastic in applying for the process.”
Michael Keen, chief executive officer of Kingston and Richmond LPC, said he had helped one contractor in Richmond complete an application for future site nomination, adding that “there could be another in Kingston, but they are doing it alone”.
Keen said that “community pharmacy will likely be needed later on in the programme and expressions of interest from contractors who want to run a site when a vaccine with fewer logistical challenges is available, and after the initial mass vaccination sites, should apply to NHS England”.
However, he added that applicants should be aware of the “financial risk” associated with running a vaccination service.
“The payment to pharmacies and GPs is only made after the patient has had their second dose and that is 21–28 days after the first dose, so there is a financial risk for contractors that must be taken into account if bidding to supply the service and that is a contractor’s commercial decision,” he said.
Local vaccination services led by GPs as part of PCNs are due to start vaccinating patients from 15–16 December 2020.
In a letter sent to clinical commissioning group (CCG) chief pharmacists on 8 December 2020, Keith Ridge, chief pharmaceutical officer for England, said that the “novel nature” of the vaccine manufactured by Pfizer and BioNTech means “pharmaceutical expertise and oversight will be provided to ensure integrity of the vaccines”.
“CCG chief pharmacists will support GPs by ensuring the safe handling and use of the vaccines at PCN designated sites for vaccine delivery,” the letter said, adding that each local vaccination centre should have a named lead responsible CCG chief pharmacist.
The lead responsible CCG chief pharmacist will need to appoint senior pharmacy team members or a senior nurse with “experience of the delivery of, and training related to, aseptic preparation”.
“CCG chief pharmacists may also want to take the opportunity of vaccine deployment happening in hospitals first to spend some time observing hospital staff how they go about dealing with the vaccine,” the letter continued.