Pharmacies could be allowed to close for part of the day to focus on providing flu vaccines, subject to government approval, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has said.
In an update on its website on 7 August 2020, the PSNC said that it is still in talks with the government over introducing flexible approaches to delivering flu vaccines in community pharmacy to manage capacity and control COVID-19 transmission.
The need for extra capacity comes after the government announced an expansion to the 2020/2021 flu vaccination programme in England, which will include households of those on the shielded patient list, children in the first year of secondary schools and people aged 50–64 years from November 2020 at the earliest.
In addition to previously reported calls for off-site provision of flu vaccines, the PSNC said it was also pushing for pharmacies to be allowed “to focus solely on the provision of flu vaccinations during a proportion of their opening hours”.
“Consideration is also being given to the ability of contractors to provide flu vaccination outside of their normal contracted opening hours,” the statement added, emphasising that “negotiations are still ongoing” and flexibilities are yet to be agreed.
Nat Mitchell, pharmacist and director at JWW Allison and Sons pharmacy in Cockermouth, Cumbria, said pharmacies being given “the option to vaccinate both off-site and out of hours is a must if we’re going to increase uptake and stand a chance of doing so safely”.
However, he added that many pharmacists “will have worked extremely hard over the last few months and the thought of more hours will be a concern”.
Mitchell also said he “wouldn’t want to close our pharmacy to just focus on flu, but we have two pharmacists so have the extra capacity to do both”.
Sibby Buckle, a community pharmacist and a member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s English Pharmacy Board, agreed that pharmacies should not close to focus on flu, adding that ”it could alienate many of our patients, who might not understand the rationale”.
”However, I appreciate that for a small pharmacy this might be the only way to meet demand,” she said.
Additionally, the PSNC said it was continuing to push government to reimburse pharmacies for the cost of personal protective equipment (PPE), which it has long been arguing for in relation to wider discussions around additional funding for the sector to cope with all COVID-19 costs.
Public Health England guidance recommends pharmacists wear “gloves, apron, fluid resistant (type IIR) surgical mask and eye protection” when administering vaccinations, with gloves and aprons to be changed after each vaccination, and masks and eye protection “subject to single session use”.
“The procurement route for PPE and reimbursement of the costs are still being discussed, and an update will be provided as soon as possible,” the PSNC said.