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PSNC: ‘Assume’ face masks are ‘minimum requirement’ for flu service

Pharmacy contractors should “assume” that wearing a fluid-resistant surgical mask will be “a minimum requirement” for delivering the flu service this season, the PSNC has said.

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has asked Public Health England (PHE) for “clear” guidance on the “appropriate” personal protective equipment (PPE) to be worn by pharmacists administering the flu jab, it said in an update to contractors earlier this week (June 9).

In the meantime, it told contractors they can expect it will be a requirement to wear a face mask “as it will clearly not be possible for pharmacists to vaccinate patients while also maintaining a two-metre social distance”.

PSNC said that it is working with NHS England and Improvement (NHSE&I) on the “potential changes to the community pharmacy flu vaccination service” in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and will inform contractors on eventual changes as soon as possible.

No PPE, no flu service

Chris Armstrong, pharmacist and owner of Armstrong’s Pharmacy in Sheffield, told C+D earlier this week (June 8) that he decided his pharmacy will not provide the national flu service this year despite the service bringing in “much needed revenue”.

“If we cannot do it safely and cannot source or afford to source appropriate PPE, then we will not be able to do flu vaccinations this year,” he said.

Mr Armstrong said he would reconsider his decision if PSNC or the Department of Health and Social Care could make sure contractors are provided with the PPE they need in time for the flu season.

David Gallier-Harris, pharmacy manager at Asda Pharmacy in Chelmsley Wood, Solihull told C+D yesterday (June 10) that his concerns are not limited to the availability of PPE.

It’s also about “cleaning schedules between patients, regular cleaning, air circulation, and emergency procedures”, he said.

“We all need to be aware that providing the service it’s not going to be business as usual this year, and prepare accordingly,” Mr Gallier-Harris added.

Considerations for delivering the flu service

The Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) CEO Leyla Hannbeck told C+D yesterday that “urgent clarity regarding the requirements for the provision of this service is required”, as pharmacies are planning ahead for it.

“AIMp is working as part of a cross-sector group to look at all elements involved in the provision of the flu vaccination service during COVID-19 and we are presenting these to NHSE later this month,” she added.

Kensington, Chelsea and Westminster Local Pharmaceutical Committee (LPC) CEO Rekha Shah told C+D last week (June 7) that the issue is "of quite some concern to pharmacists in London” as they prepare for the upcoming flu season.

Ms Shah said that the LPC is waiting for official NHSE&I updates on potential changes to the service this season before it shares any advice with contractors. However, she has outlined a number of considerations in readiness for delivering the flu service under these challenging circumstances.

For instance, pharmacies that have more than one consultation room “may consider using them in alternation between clients while another member of their team does the necessary clean-up operation in the other” although this would likely require extra staff, she said. 

Ms Shah also said pharmacies could look to introduce fogging machines with hypochlorous acid in a 5micron spray to disinfect the premises. However, their adoption “will depend on the funding being made available… as our estimation is that pharmacies would need to do about 200 vaccinations before just breaking even on the cost of purchasing and using this”, she added.

Last month (May 14), NHSE&I encouraged community pharmacies to ensure they have enough stock of the recommended adult flu vaccines for the 2020/21 season, as demand is predicted to rise due to COVID-19. The national commissioners also said that the list of groups eligible to receive the flu jab free of charge in 2020/21 could change if the programme is expanded.

Would you welcome some guidance on what PPE should be worn when administering the flu jab?

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