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Pharmacies should be given integral vaccines role, says think tank


Pharmacies should be given integral vaccines role, says think tank

By Neil Trainis

The think tank Policy Exchange has urged the government to ensure community pharmacies across England are fully embedded in future vaccination roll-out programmes.

A Policy Exchange report on how vaccines should be delivered makes a series of recommendations, including the establishment by next year of a new national immunisation board chaired by the vaccines minister to scrutinise existing schemes. 

It also recommends that the Department of Health and Social Care publish an “overarching” vaccination strategy which would be underpinned by the belief that “responsibility for administration and deployment of most vaccines will remain in primary care and be led by general practice". 

However, it goes on to say that community pharmacy has “an enhanced role” to play in vaccinating adults “with a formalised role for medical, nursing and pharmacy students in seasonal rollouts". 

The think tank also said community pharmacy should be commissioned to deliver all adult vaccinations through national enhanced services. Questions remain as to why many community pharmacies who applied to deliver Covid boosters were turned down.

Other recommendations include the piloting of a “vaccination collaboratives” initiative by 2024-25 in three integrated care system areas that would bring together community pharmacy, general practice, local government as well as the voluntary, community and social enterprise sector to meet patients’ needs.

The report said payments under a vaccination collaboratives system in those pilot areas would fall under a “population-based contract” and that could mean amendments are made to the community pharmacy contractual framework “to allow for the novel payment mechanism".

“The principal objective would be to pool resources most efficiently, free up clinical time for other activity and improve uptake amongst underserved populations,” said the report.

It also called for pharmacy technicians to be added to the list of people delivering vaccines through a national patient group direction and all medical, nursing and pharmacy students to be able to opt in and train to deliver immunisations “except where there is a strong clinical rationale for not doing so".

The report said anyone commissioned to deliver vaccinations should have access to patients’ records. Pharmacies across the country are still waiting for read-write access to electronic records despite years of campaigning.

Among those who took part in the research were the PSNC, International Pharmaceutical Federation, Royal Pharmaceutical Society and Company Chemists’ Association. The CCA said it was “pleased to support” the report and its recommendations.

“We welcome this timely report from Policy Exchange which recognises the important - and growing - contribution that community pharmacy plays in delivering national vaccination programmes,” said CCA chief executive Malcolm Harrison.

“We have long campaigned for community pharmacies to be the natural home for all vaccinations. From commissioning community pharmacy to administer more vaccinations, enabling pharmacy technicians to administer them and improving accessibility to patient records, Policy Exchange has produced a range of credible ideas here which ought to be taken forward.”

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