RPS urges government not to end state-backed indemnity for pharmacists delivering COVID-19 vaccinations

In a letter to the vaccines minister, the RPS has asked for plans to end state-provided indemnity insurance to be reconsidered.

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The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has made this article free to access in order to help healthcare professionals stay informed about an issue of national importance.

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The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) in England has said it is “surprised and concerned” to learn that community pharmacists providing booster COVID-19 vaccinations will, from 31 August 2021, be asked to cover the cost of indemnity insurance themselves.

NHS Resolution, which was the NHS Litigation Authority, had previously said that pharmacies delivering COVID-19 vaccinations operating under a local enhanced service agreement (LES) would have state-backed indemnity insurance for their staff until the end of August 2021. After that date, it said, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) would “agree an appropriate level of risk sharing with the community pharmacy sector for clinical negligence vaccine cover from the end of August 2021”.

The LES specification for phase 3, or ‘booster’ stage of the community pharmacy COVID-19 vaccination programme, published on 14 July 2021, said pharmacy contractors must ensure that they have “appropriate indemnity and/or insurance arrangements that provide adequate cover” for delivery of the LES agreement.

In a letter to vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi, sent on 22 July 2021, Thorrun Govind, chair of the RPS English Pharmacy Board, asked for a review of the decision. “Expecting community pharmacists to now start paying for their own indemnity insurance is an extraordinary position” given that the government is seeking to widen uptake of vaccinations, Govind said.

Ending state-backed indemnity for pharmacists would, Govind continued, create an “unnecessary and avoidable barrier to boosting the number of vaccinators and is inequitable with other health professions”.

“The entire pharmacy profession was appalled when community pharmacists were left out from the COVID-19 death in service benefits announced in April [2020]. It is incredibly disappointing to be revisiting this kind of issue now.”

Pharmacists have, Govind added, “been on the frontline of COVID-19 from the outset, delivering patient care in the most challenging of circumstances.

“They should not now be asked to pay personally out of their own pocket to help deliver this national ambition on vaccinations.”

In a letter sent to all pharmacy contractors in England on 14 July 2021, NHS England said the government was “working closely with the insurance sector to provide support for pharmacy contractors commissioned to deliver phase 3” of the vaccination programme.

The DHSC has been contacted for comment.

Read more: COVID-19 booster campaign: everything we know so far

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, July 2021, Vol 307, No 7951;307(7951)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2021.1.97976

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