Healthcare staff other than pharmacists will be able to administer flu vaccines during the 2021/2022 flu season in England, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has said.
In a statement on the publication of NHS England’s latest ‘Community pharmacy seasonal influenza vaccination advanced service’ specification, published in August 2021, the PSNC said the document includes amendments to the patient group direction (PGD), which will enable flu vaccines to be used by another “appropriately trained practitioner” in the coming flu season.
“This will therefore allow contractors to use other healthcare professions listed in the PGD … to provide the service under the supervision of a pharmacist,” the statement said.
It added that the PGD was in the final stages of being signed off by Public Health England ahead of publication.
Under current guidance, PGDs can be used by staff from 15 groups of qualified healthcare professionals — if listed on the PGD — including midwives, nurses, paramedics and pharmacists.
In previous years, the flu vaccination PGD published by NHS England has only listed pharmacists as being eligible to administer flu vaccines under the nationally commissioned pharmacy flu vaccination service.
However, a spokesperson from the PSNC confirmed to The Pharmaceutical Journal on 3 August 2021 that it had requested the inclusion of other healthcare professionals on the PGD for the 2021/2022 flu season, which they said has been agreed.
According to the statement, NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) has also confirmed that it is “looking to have a national protocol in place” to support the service’s delivery.
“A national protocol has already been used by many pharmacies participating in the COVID-19 vaccination programme,” it added.
“It could be used by contractors as an alternative to the PGD, where they are able to make use of the skill mix flexibilities allowed by the protocol.”
Under the national protocol for COVID-19 vaccinations, pharmacy technicians have been able to administer vaccines.
However, Public Health England has yet to confirm whether the same protocol would extend to flu vaccinations.
Commenting on the publication of the service documentation, Alastair Buxton, director of NHS services at the PSNC, said: “This year, patients are at risk from flu and COVID-19, so it is important that they are able to access relevant vaccinations as early as possible; contractors will want to ensure they offer flu vaccination to patients as soon as supplies become available.
“The [PSNC] is disappointed that the hard work undertaken by contractors and their teams [in 2020] and the increasing costs they are experiencing in providing services has not been recognised by NHSE&I in an increase in the funding for the service this season.
“[The] PSNC will continue to make the case to the NHS for increased funding for the service in future years.”
The service fee for the 2021/2022 flu season remains at £9.58 per patient plus the cost of the vaccine.