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Pharmacies can halt other services for flu and COVID-19 vaccinations

New NHS regulations allow contractors to halt other services to “prioritise the administration” of flu and COVID-19 vaccinations in an emergency, PSNC has said.

Under the “flexible provision of flu and coronavirus vaccination or immunisation services during a pandemic”, pharmacies will be able to halt other services to concentrate on these vaccination schemes as part of new NHS regulations that were laid before parliament on Monday (October 19), the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) announced yesterday (October 20).

Most of the changes to the regulations – which introduce amendments to the terms of service for community pharmacy contractors – were previously agreed as part of the five-year Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework (CPCF). However some “relate to the ongoing” COVID-19 pandemic, the negotiator said in a statement today

Pharmacy contractors are now able to limit or stop other pharmaceutical services at “specified times during core or supplementary opening hours” to focus on providing flu or COVID-19 vaccinations. 

PSNC indicated in August that an amendment could be on its way. Announcing the service specifications for this year's flu vaccination programme on August 28, the negotiator said it had asked the Department of Health and Social Care if regulations could be changed to allow pharmacies to “focus solely on the provision of flu vaccinations during a proportion of their opening hours”. 

Pandemic treatment protocol introduced 

Other changes introduced as a result of COVID-19 include the introduction of a pandemic treatment protocol, which “can be used to allow for the supply of medicines for the prevention or treatment of diseases for a current or anticipated pandemic, such as COVID-19, if and when this is required,” the PSNC said. This will now become part of the essential services dispensing provisions, it added.

Under the new protocol, pharmacists can supply prescription-only medicines without a prescription if these are “used for the prevention or treatment of diseases that are, or in anticipation of them being imminently, pandemic” according to the National Health Service (Charges and Pharmaceutical and Local Pharmaceutical Services) (Amendment) Regulations 2020.

Contractors must also facilitate remote access to their services, “to a reasonable extent”, for patients who do not wish to visit the pharmacy in person. Owing slips may now be in electronic as well as in physical form.

The majority of changes in the regulations were planned to go ahead in July this year as part of the five-year funding contract announced in July 2019, but were delayed due to the pandemic.

Examples include the introduction of the Discharge Medicines Service, which will come into effect in January 2021, and the need for all pharmacies to meet the healthy living pharmacy level one requirements. However, compliance with some of these requirements is being delayed until April 1,2021.

What do you make of the new regulations?

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