Pharmacists have been provided with ‘responsive lines’ to use if doctors or local medical committees (LMCs) question the community pharmacy flu vaccination service.
The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), the negotiating body for community pharmacy contractors in England, produced the advice on 31 August 2018, the eve of the 2018/2019 winter immunisation programme, after receiving complaints about GP text messages sent from surgeries to patients, and inappropriate posters in GP surgeries about the community pharmacy flu vaccination service in England.
The advice points out how pharmacists can rebut claims that they are paid more than GPs to deliver the flu vaccine, that they are not qualified to vaccinate, or that pharmacists will only provide the jab for “easy to reach” patients.
The PSNC says that some local pharmaceutical committees (LPCs) have been “experiencing negativity” from local doctors and LMCs about the recommissioning of the advanced service.
It advises that while pharmacists should deal with any tensions themselves by talking to the practice or the LMC, they should also tell their local NHS England team about any incidents and ask it to intervene if problems persist.
The PSNC has produced a Q&A briefing paper to arm LPCs and contractors with up-to-date information to help address any misconceptions GPs may have about the service and it has said it is working on flu vaccination guidance aimed at both LPCs and LMCs, which it hopes to agree with the British Medical Association.
The reports of tension between GPs and community pharmacists follow a similar pattern to 2017, when some doctors were accused of sending texts to patients claiming that flu vaccines offered by community pharmacists were less safe than those delivered by GPs.
In other cases, it was claimed that GPs had told their patients that the viability of their practice was threatened by the work carried being out by community pharmacists.
In January 2018, the PSNC confirmed that community pharmacists in England would be able to offer a seasonable flu vaccination programme again this winter as an advanced service under the national contract. They are expected to target older people aged over 65 years and patients in at-risk groups.
An NHS England patient satisfaction survey published in September 2017 found that almost every patient vaccinated against flu at a community pharmacy in the winter of 2016/2017 would be happy to have it in community pharmacy again.