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Independents and patients face chaos over delayed flu service


Independents and patients face chaos over delayed flu service

By Neil Trainis

The National Pharmacy Association chair Nick Kaye has today warned NHS England that its decision to push back the joint flu and Covid autumn booster vaccination programme will leave community pharmacies, including independents across the country, struggling to pick up the pieces.

Kaye (pictured), a regular columnist for Independent Community Pharmacist, said in a statement released by the NPA that delaying the start of the flu vaccination service, which normally starts on September 1, until October made “no sense,” threatened to throw pharmacies’ preparations into chaos and jeopardised patients’ health and well-being.

Calling on NHSE to “urgently rethink and reinstate the September start date without delay,” Kaye said: “Millions of people chose to get their flu jabs at a pharmacy last year. If this change goes ahead, thousands of appointments will have to be cancelled and pre-ordered stock will go to waste.

“Temporary staff who have been appointed to help deliver the service in September will need to be stood down.  

“People who want to do the right thing by protecting themselves as soon as possible from this nasty illness now have to wait.”

School-age children will still be able to receive a flu vaccination from September 1 but adults will have to wait another month for their flu and Covid jabs.

In a tweet directed at NHSE and the health secretary Steve Barclay, community pharmacist and vice-chair of Hillingdon LPC Rikin Patel said: “Absolutely ridiculous! Around a third of all pharmacy flu vaccinations are carried out in September. Pharmacies will have flu vaccines in stock by the second or third week of September but will not be in a position to vaccinate NHS patients until October?”

English Pharmacy Board chair Thorrun Govind told Sky News: “This is a change to vaccination provision which is likely to catch patients off guard, given the usual practice of encouraging patients to get vaccinated as soon as possible from September onwards to protect them.

“I am also concerned about the workload on healthcare teams over a shorter period of time. More transparency over the reasoning for this must be provided.”

According to Sky News, NHSE said pushing back the start date would give sites more chance to administer flu and Covid vaccines and make it easier for patients to receive both jabs.

Community Pharmacy England said it has written to pharmacy minister Neil O’Brien and vaccines minister Maria Caulfield to request “their urgent intervention to prevent hundreds of thousands of patients being denied the chance to be vaccinated in September.”

CPE warned pharmacies face “administrative chaos” as they attempt to re-book appointments as well as growing “financial and operational pressures,” leaving pharmacy owners and teams struggling to cope with their workload this winter “or recoup the investment they have made sourcing vaccines in good faith.”

NHSE's decision to reduce Covid vaccine fees criticised

Kaye also criticised NHSE’s decision to reduce the fee for Covid vaccinations by 25 per cent to £7.54 and freeze flu jab fees at £9.58 despite the protests of CPE.

“After the increasing success of pharmacy-based vaccinations in recent years and given the inflationary pressures on contractors, it is also very disappointing that NHS England is reducing the Covid fee and flattening the flu payment,” he said.

“The reduction in fees for doing covid jabs is extremely disappointing, remembering the heroic contribution of the pharmacy sector at the height of the pandemic. The service is no easier or cheaper to provide than it was before.

“Operationally, financially and in terms of pharmacies’ reputation as a convenient access point for preventative care, it’s a really bad move to shift the goalposts like this, quite apart from the impact for patients and the public.   

“Overall, this is highly demotivating for hard-pressed pharmacy contractors who have proven themselves to be effective at delivering these important clinical services.”

ICP has contacted NHSE to confirm reports that community pharmacies will receive £17.12 for administering a flu and Covid vaccine in a single appointment when the delayed service starts in October compared with £17.60 for GP practices.

CPE added: “We are continuing to fight to change the decision taken by NHS England, calling for the pharmacy flu vaccination service to begin on the long-established September 1 start date, in what our letter says would be a victory for common sense.”

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