GPs miss out on funding as data reveal pharmacies delivered 1m flu jabs last year

Community pharmacies delivered 60% more flu vaccinations in 2016/17 compared with the year before, and received payments worth over £8.6m for delivering the service across the season, official data show.

The increase means that GPs missed out on providing more than 350,000 additional flu vaccines that they could have provided in previous years.

Data from NHS Digital shows that in 2015/16, the year pharmacies could first provide the vaccine, they administered it to 595,467 people.

During the 2016/17 season, this grew up to just short of 1m patients – some 950,765. They were paid a total of over £8.6m in fees for providing the service.

This means practices missed out on funding potentially worth up to £9.3m, as they are paid £9.80 per dose given under the influenza vaccine DES, while pharmacists are paid £7.64 plus a £1.50 fees per dose, a total of £9.14.

Influenza vaccine

GP leaders have warned that allowing pharmacies to deliver the service has wreaked havoc with GP planning, as it becomes increasingly difficult to predict how many vaccines they will actually need.

A GPonline poll found that over two fifths of practices were left with unused stocks of the vaccine at the end of the 2016/17 season – and more than half of these said the amount left over was greater than the preceding year.

GPs reported at the time that they were still reeling from the decision to open the service up to pharmacies, which one had said had had ‘profound’ consequences.

Several respondents reported that local pharmacies received their stocks of the vaccine earlier than practices, leaving them powerless to stop them poaching patients.

The statistics also show that over 1,200 additional pharmacies started providing the flu vaccine over the year before, meaning 72% of pharmacies in the country now offer the service.

Read more: Adjuvanted vaccine could improve flu protection and slash GP workload

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