An advisory group reviewing immunisation and vaccination provision in the NHS has said it will look at increasing the number of vaccinations being delivered in community pharmacy.
The group, which is carrying out a ‘Vaccinations and Immunisations Review’, and which includes representatives from NHS England and the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, said this may “build upon” community pharmacy’s flu vaccine service.
Pharmacy bodies have supported the aim, saying community pharmacies are “well placed” to provide additional vaccines to NHS patients and improve uptake.
NHS England and NHS Improvement’s interim findings of the review, published on 25 October 2019, said it will provide recommendations to support the “increased uptake of vaccinations”, as well as “fair and transparent funding arrangements for general practice and community pharmacy”.
As part of a possible “reform to payment structure”, the report said the advisory body will consider incentivising primary care networks (PCNs) to provide vaccinations, “particularly where achieving optimal vaccination coverage is best addressed at a community level and where there is a shared endeavour between different providers”.
“This includes whether there are vaccines which could be safely and efficiently delivered by providers in the network other than general practice, building upon the contribution of community pharmacy to seasonal influenza coverage,” the report continued.
NHS England was unable to add further detail on community pharmacy’s vaccination delivery within PCNs ahead of the review’s final report.
Malcolm Harrison, chief executive of the Company Chemists’ Association, told The Pharmaceutical Journal that “taking a system-wide approach to vaccination will better address population health needs, improving uptake and outcomes”.
“Community pharmacy is well placed in terms of accessibility and convenience for patients, and we already play a significant role in the delivery of the national seasonal influenza vaccination programme,” he said, adding that community pharmacists already “provide many vaccination programmes on a private basis, for example [the human papillomavirus]”.
The interim report’s publication comes after the National Audit Office (NAO) found that the uptake of nearly all pre-school vaccinations in England has declined since 2012/2013.
Responding to the NAO report, Claire Anderson, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in England, agreed that pharmacists “can play a greater role in the provision of childhood vaccinations”.
“We have seen huge surges in the uptake of the flu vaccination across the UK since its introduction into community pharmacy and making other vaccines available in pharmacies has the same potential,” she said, adding that offering more vaccines in community pharmacies “can be easily done”, but requires “appropriate support, infrastructure and resources”.
The report said the recommendations made by the review body would feed into the Department of Health and Social Care’s (DHSC’s) “emerging vaccination strategy, which is expected to be published shortly”.
As part of this strategy, the DHSC said in August 2019 that it would ask “NHS England to consider other settings outside of a GP for vaccinations”.