Community pharmacists in England will be able to offer NHS flu vaccinations this winter under new funding arrangements announced by the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC).
Positioned as an advanced service under the community pharmacy contract, it builds on several local schemes that have run in recent years to boost uptake figures, including a service in London that vaccinated more than 100,000 patients in 2014–2015.
Under the new arrangements, all community pharmacists with a private consultation room and trained staff will be able to offer NHS flu vaccinations to eligible patients.
They will be required to notify the patient’s GP when a vaccine has been given. The aim of the move is to boost uptake figures to a target of 75% — in 2014-2015 only 50% of those aged under 65 years in clinical risk groups were vaccinated.
Source: Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC)
PSNC chief executive Sue Sharpe says where pharmacists were already providing flu vaccines, both privately and on the NHS, there had been “overwhelmingly positive feedback from patients” as well as evidence that it helped to boost uptake, especially among hard to reach patients.
“Many patients choose pharmacy because they are unable to attend GP clinics due to factors such as their work hours and because they can visit pharmacies in a variety of locations without the need to book an appointment,” says Sharpe.
But she admitted the timescale to get the service up and running was tight.
“The late notice of the service may mean that community pharmacies are not able to get the supplies they need to help as many patients as they would like this winter; but we are confident they will rise to the challenge and that we will see many patients receiving their flu vaccinations in community pharmacies this year,” she adds.
Under NHS recommendations, flu vaccinations should be offered to people over the age of 65, pregnant women, and people with certain health conditions such as asthma and diabetes.
Marc Donovan, chief pharmacist at Boots UK, says a national flu service provided by pharmacists is “great news for patients”.
“We are pleased that NHS England and Public Health England have recognised the increased role that community pharmacy can play in delivering services as part of an integrated primary healthcare offer and we hope this is only the start of community pharmacy demonstrating its capabilities fully,” says Donovan.
Source: Pharmacy Voice
Rob Darracott, chief executive of Pharmacy Voice, echoed the view that a national flu vaccination service is a great step forward for community pharmacy, but says time to get the service up and running for this season is limited.
“We’re only ten weeks from the beginning of October — so Pharmacy Voice will support our members in communicating the service to patients, working with colleagues in NHS England to support community pharmacy provision with the message that you can visit your local pharmacy for an NHS flu vaccination,” says Darracott.
Maureen Baker, chair of the Royal College of GPs, has concerns about how GPs will know who has or has not had their vaccinations, as well as difficulties knowing how many vaccines to order.
“This could lead to potential confusion among vulnerable patients and cause unnecessary strain on practice staff who are already facing intense workload pressures,” she says. “We urgently need to look into ways of joint-working and information sharing between GP practices and pharmacies to minimise this problem.
”Pharmacy contractors will receive remuneration of £7.64 per administered dose of vaccination plus reimbursement of the vaccine costs, the PSNC announced in its summary of the 2015-2016 funding arrangements.
An additional fee of £1.50 will also be paid per vaccination to cover the costs of training, revalidation and disposal of clinical waste. The settlement for 2015-2016 is worth £2.8bn — £2bn from fees and allowances and £800m through agreed purchase margins.
There was no agreement for a minor ailments service, which many had hoped would be included. Negotiators also announced an evidence-based review of the cost to pharmacy of running the electronic prescription service, as well as a new requirement for contractors to publish their NHS earnings.
The PSNC is working with the NHS to set out how this can be achieved, although it says that failure to publish NHS earnings could result in a breach of contract notice being issued by NHS England. John D’Arcy, Numark’s managing director, welcomed the introduction of the national flu service for pharmacy but says overall the funding settlement and lack of minor ailments service was “disappointing”.
“It is clear that pharmacy is now operating in a climate of ‘more for less’ and the settlement represents a pay cut when measured against the underlying rate of inflation and overall growth in prescription numbers over the past year,” says D’Arcy. “It is, however, good news to see the introduction of a national flu service and we welcome the additional funding that goes with this.”