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The Information Sage: Your flu service rival isn’t the enemy

Direct your flu service gripes towards commissioners rather than GPs, says The Information Sage

“Are you doing flu vaccines yet?” asked my mother. “Only the doctor told me not to get it done at a pharmacy – but I would if you were doing them.”

I thought this was an odd statement, so I asked her to elaborate. “They said that the pharmacies doing it would put them out of business or something,” she said. This had me bristling, but I was willing to put it down to a case of maternal Chinese whispers. Then I nipped onto Twitter and saw that someone had posted a picture of a note from their local surgery. “Vital services are at risk if you get your vaccination done at a pharmacy,” it proclaimed on a piece of paper stapled to prescriptions that were heading towards said pharmacy. 

Nurturing this us-versus-them attitude and using it to guilt-trip patients won’t get us anywhere. Rather than GPs blaming pharmacists and vice versa, it is more logical to direct frustrations at the powers-that-be. Clearly there are wider organisational issues that need to be addressed if a national service is implemented so late into the year that GPs have already purchased their vaccines.

It’s not like we don’t know the flu season is coming, so why is everything so disorganised and so last-minute? In the current financial and political climate, I don’t think it is too much of a tinfoil hat conspiracy theory to suspect there is a greater plan to turn the NHS inwards against itself so larger issues get ignored.

On a more cheery flu-related note, I attended my first flu vaccination training yesterday. I was nervous, to say the least – it’s been a long time since I delivered any practical services, never mind one involving needles. I was expecting to have to learn some sort of bewildering black magic-like ritual. But, no, instead the world’s most laid-back man completely demystified it all in an hour and a half. His training went something along the lines of:

1. Make sure your sharps bin is near

2. Don’t wave the needle around in the patient’s face

3. Feel for the shoulder bone. Shove it in somewhere underneath that and above the armpit, vaguely in the middle

4. Try not to hit bone, but if you do, just pull the needle out a bit

5. Try not to jab yourself, because that’s a silly thing to do.

A few jabs into a fake arm later and I left feeling pretty confident – the informal teaching style really suited and reassured me, while making sure that I knew all the important stuff. My main problem is going to be finding my first willing victim: all of the staff in the pharmacy I regularly work in have already been practised on, my parents are on holiday and my partner looked utterly horrified at the suggestion.

So, if there’s anyone out there who hasn’t been vaccinated yet, please do give me a shout… if you dare.

More from The Information Sage

C+D has received reports of certain GP practices deterring patients from receiving their flu vaccination at a community pharmacy. If you are aware of this happening in your area, please email [email protected] or tweet @CandDSamuel using #flubarriers


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