NHS England extends community pharmacy flu jab scheme despite impact on GPs

A scheme that pays community pharmacies to deliver seasonal flu vaccinations has been recommissioned for 2016/17, NHS England has announced, despite criticism from GPs.

GP leaders have warned that offering patients the chance to have flu jabs at either their GP practice or a local pharmacy has left practices unable to plan how much vaccine they should stock.

Data published in November 2015 by the RCGP showed that attendance at GP flu clinics had slumped, with 6% fewer jabs administered compared to the same time a year earlier. The college warned that practices had been left with fridges 'full' of unused vaccines.

GP leaders also demanded an urgent review of the scheme soon after it launched last year, warning that plans to pay pharmacists an administration fee on top of the amount practices receive per jab was 'clearly iniquitous'.

Flu vaccination

GPC prescribing subcommittee lead Dr Andrew Green told GPonline last month: 'Given the potential for pharmacy schemes to destabilise services we would renew our call for the scheme only to be continued if it can be shown to result in significantly increased uptake.

'The danger is that GPs for the coming season, fearful of being left with unused vaccines, will under-order resulting in problems with supplies should an epidemic hit and demand suddenly increase.

'Anyone suggesting that this is a measure to help with GP workload is being mischievous, if that were the case, why were negotiations being carried out in secret without involving the profession who should be oh-so-grateful for the assistance.'

NHS England said it recommissioned the scheme after 240,259 'more people benefited from vaccinations in a community pharmacy setting during the previous year'.

However, despite the rise in jabs 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.

NHS England said 'terms and fees for the recommissioned service will remain the same as in 2015/16' and that it was announcing its plans early to 'support pharmacies in managing and ordering vaccine stocks'.

Keith Ridge, chief pharmaceutical officer, said: 'Our flu vaccination service made it possible for nearly a quarter of a million more people last year to receive a vaccination in their local community pharmacy of choice. We are pleased to confirm that we will continue to offer this more convenient option to the public during the year ahead.'

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