GPs warned that the dual scheme introduced for 2015/16 that allowed pharmacies to offer patients jabs in parallel to practices' vaccination work had made planning difficult and left many with a surplus of vaccine.
Findings that many practices were left with unused vaccine supplies suggest that warnings earlier in the year about the potential impact of the dual scheme were justified. Despite concerns about pharmacies delivering vaccines alongside GP flu vaccination campaigns, the DH announced earlier this year the scheme would be continued for 2016/17.
A total of 33% of more than 400 GPs who responded to the GPonline poll said their practice had been left with more unused vaccine after the 2015/16 flu season than the year before. Only a quarter of respondents said their practice had not, while the rest were unsure.
GP flu vaccinations
Some GP respondents to the poll said pharmacies in their area had 'cherry picked' easy patients to vaccinate, and others said pharmacies had vaccinated patients already scheduled to receive jabs at their GP practice.
One respondent called the dual provision of vaccines across pharmacies and GP practices 'shameful' because vaccine stocks had been wasted.
One GP suggested pharmacies should have a role in vaccinations, but that it should be targeted at particular groups of patients. 'Pharmacists should be allowed to vaccinate mainly the house-bound patients and the very frail as they already provide services like delivering monthly or dosette boxed medications,' the GP said.
Data published by the RCGP in November 2015 showed that uptake of vaccinations at GP practices had slumped significantly compared with the previous year.
Unused flu vaccine
GPonline reported at the time on RCGP warnings that surgery fridges were 'full' of unused vaccines because practices had given out 6% fewer jabs than at the same stage in the previous flu season.
The RCGP said earlier this year that concerns about the ineffectiveness of the 2014/15 flu vaccine and 'uncharacteristically mild weather' in late 2015 may have contributed to lower than usual uptake of jabs.
Despite the decision to allow jabs to be delivered in pharmacies, flu jab uptake does not appear to have increased overall.
A total of 10,407,913 flu vaccinations were delivered in the 2015/16 season, up from around 10.2m the previous year. But for 2015/16 the number of eligible patients increased by around 1.5m because children in school years one and two were offered the vaccine.
Data from GP practices show a small decline in uptake of jabs across target groups, a finding that may reflect the fact that some patients will have had jabs at pharmacies instead.