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Dr Messenger: A jab of reality

Dr Messenger challenges the NHS to a bout of joined-up thinking when it comes to immunisations


Apparently, shingles immunisation coverage has fallen by 3% compared with last year. And whose fault is that? You pesky pharmacists, of course – if you believe some GP commentators.

The fact is, we GPs haven’t been especially proactive about the shingles vaccine, what with being so busy, it not paying a huge amount, the nuisance of trying to remember who’s actually entitled to it and life being so short. But it is convenient to do a cluster-jab combining flu and shingles immunisation when the ‘right’ age groups attend for their flu jabs because it’s an easy, ‘while you’re here’ interaction.

And there’s the problem. As you’ve no doubt noticed, some GPs are peeved that pharmacists have invaded our flu vaccination territory. You’re perfectly entitled to do so. But you’re rubbing salt in the wound because, by siphoning off some of our flu jab work, you’re depriving us of our double-whammy jab opportunity. Oh, and the patient misses out, too. Hence a fall in coverage. And hence your fault.

Which is nonsense, of course. A simple bit of joined-up NHS England thinking could have prevented all this internecine strife, and hopefully will do so next time around. All Public Health England needs to do is decide who is doing what, when, where and how. And instead of causing conflict and chaos, and therefore duplication or omission of services, it could integrate in a way that keeps everyone – patients, GPs and pharmacists – happy, and maintains fair and stable funding. Otherwise, the pain of this year’s jabs debacle will rumble on far longer – and far more irritatingly – than you’d expect. A bit like post-herpetic neuralgia.

Should pharmacists offer the shingles vaccine?

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