Pharmacy contractors will be paid an extra 50p per flu vaccine delivered under the national service in 2020/2021, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has announced.
This will take the fee per flu vaccine from £9.58 to £10.08, but the additional payment will be funded through the ‘transition fund’, which was previously agreed as part of the ‘Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework for 2019/20 to 2023/24’, and therefore does not represent additional funding to the sector.
In an announcement on its website on 11 September 2020, the PSNC said that community pharmacy would also be able to retain “up to £1m of medicines margin… for flu vaccinations administered above the number in a normal year”.
“This will be in addition to the allowed £800m medicines margin under the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework,” the announcement said.
Contractors will also be able to claim up to £200 to hire a venue for off-site vaccination clinics and a further one-off payment of £200 “for cold storage equipment”.
In August 2020, NHS England announced several changes to the community pharmacy seasonal influenza vaccination advanced service specifications, including removing restrictions on off-site vaccination.
However, the statement from 11 September 2020 adds that authorisation of payment for the venue and cold storage costs “will be given on a first come first served basis, from a finite budget”.
Pharmacy contractors will have to obtain authorisation from NHS England before hiring the venue to avoid “over-provision” of flu vaccines in a certain area or at a certain time that would lead to providers “competing for the same patients”, the PSNC said.
NHS England will also only authorise where “there is no other venue that has already been paid for either very near or at the same place, at the same time, that the contractor could make use of”, and “the contractor has enough vaccine supplies to run the offsite clinic and vaccinate expected attendees”.
Rekha Shah, chief executive officer of Kensington Chelsea & Westminster Local Pharmaceutical Committee and Pharmacy London lead for vaccinations, said the extra funding “is not enough at all to meet the costs” of delivering flu vaccines this year.
“There is a huge expectation of pharmacy teams going offsite to vaccinate in other settings — with no backfill costs for these staff members, the pharmacy contractor will be at a loss and this is definitely not viable at all,” she said.
Shah added that there is “a huge amount of inequity between the arrangements for the different provider groups, in that community pharmacy is expected to work at a loss, and general practice is getting multiple sources of funding to work in different and additional ways to maximise the vaccinations they do and reach their patients”.
Nat Mitchell, pharmacist and director of JWW Allison and Sons pharmacy in Cockermouth, Cumbria, previously told The Pharmaceutical Journal that his pharmacy was preparing to run flu clinics from a nearby hotel.
He said the additional funding was “welcome”, although “it won’t cover what we end up spending, but hopefully increased uptake will do that”.
“It will allow us to carry the service on from other premises for longer than we would have done, which is good,” he added.