A letter has been sent to all pharmacists in direct contact with the public urging them to get vaccinated against flu this winter.
Chief pharmaceutical officer for England, Keith Ridge, has written to pharmacy teams via the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) as part of a push by NHS England to limit winter pressures on the NHS.
There was an increased uptake in the seasonal flu vaccination among frontline healthcare staff last winter to 63.2% from 50.6% the year before, but Ridge said even more pharmacists should get the jab this year.
“This is a significant achievement,” Ridge wrote.
“However, this year I would like to see more frontline staff vaccinated to help protect yourself and your families. This will also help to reduce pressure on our health service at a time of the year when we need it most.”
Alastair Buxton, director of NHS services at the PSNC said: “Based on the experience of health services in Australia and New Zealand, this winter is likely to see very high levels of flu, which will put a significant strain on the whole of the NHS, including community pharmacy teams.
“Offering pharmacy staff a vaccination will help protect them and others, and will hopefully play a part in helping contractors to maintain an effective pharmacy service during the challenging months ahead.”
His letter came after it emerged that all NHS staff across the country could expect to receive a letter instructing them to get vaccinated against the flu, or provide their employer with an explanation as to why they have chosen not to. NHS trusts will have to provide all members of staff with access to the flu vaccination and will be obliged to record information for reasons why staff decline to be vaccinated.
A spokesperson for the Pharmacists’ Defence Association said: “We would expect pharmacists’ employer/line manager to fully explain in advance exactly what they are being asked to do so that they can respond appropriately.”
As part of NHS England’s attempts to manage winter pressures on the NHS this year, free flu vaccinations will be offered for the first time to over one million people who work in care homes.
The PSNC has said it is discussing arrangements to amend the community pharmacy flu vaccination service to include this new target group with NHS England’s central team.
A total of 21 million people in England will be offered a free flu immunisation on the NHS this winter.