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NHS England reveals more details about pharmacy’s COVID-19 vax role

NHSE&I is drafting the terms of a COVID-19 vaccination enhanced service for community pharmacy, which only some businesses will be able to offer, PSNC has said.

The service could be commissioned for some pharmacies by NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) “either because they have no existing provision in an area or they need additional provision”, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) wrote in a statement yesterday (November 12).

“We understand that NHSE&I will shortly publish documentation on the community pharmacy enhanced service, like that already published on the general practice service,” PSNC added.

However, some pharmacies lack capacity or space to provide this service on their own, PSNC said.

For this reason, instead of offering the service from their own premises, they could collaborate with their local primary care network (PCN) or a neighbouring one to deliver the programme.

Not in “average community pharmacy premises”

Speaking at an NHSE&I community pharmacy webinar last night, director for primary care strategy and NHS contracts Ed Waller said that while “there may be an opportunity for community pharmacy itself to stand up and lead vaccination sites”, NHSE&I does not think “this is something that we will be able to do in your average community pharmacy premises”.

There will be some pharmacies who will “potentially be able to offer a site” and deliver COVID-19 vaccines from there as part of a programme, Mr Waller said.

However, some issues including the “handling requirements around some of these vaccines, how they have to be reconstituted, stored… [and their] shelf life” mean that this vaccination scheme will be different from the flu programme, he added.

“There needs to be a concentrated delivery of vaccination and some of these products from a single site,” he said.

However, Mr Waller sees scope for pharmacies’ participation in the programme through collaboration with their PCN colleagues, he said

PCN vaccination site

PCNs have been asked to find a designated vaccination site and to submit the details of their chosen venue to their local clinical commissioning group (CCG) by November 17.

The CCGs will review PCN submissions and make a recommendation to their regional NHSE&I teams, who will inform PCNs whether or not their site has been approved by November 23.

Once PCNs have a clearer idea on their vaccination sites, discussions with local community pharmacies could start around the supply of community pharmacy staff “on what will be private, not NHS arrangements”, PSNC said.

Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies CEO Leyla Hannbeck told C+D today (November 13) that while the "historic" COVID-19 programme is "unprecedented and should not be forgotten that community pharmacies remained open throughout the pandemic and built on their already close ties with NHS patients in their local communities".

"Our members are actively looking both to set up centres as an enhanced service and to work with general practices to help PCNs deliver this massive task. We are keen to see the NHSE&I criteria for community pharmacy published as soon as possible. While general practices have had some time to familiarise themselves with the criteria, community pharmacy has not had that chance yet.”

Earlier this week (November 9) Pfizer/BioNTech announced that an interim efficacy analysis of their mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine, which consists of a two-dose schedule, showed that it is 90% effective in preventing the virus in participants who had not previously contracted it.

Details of a COVID-19 vaccination programme for GP practices were released on Monday as the NHS is planning for the "off chance" that some vaccines will be available by the end of 2020.

What do you make of these announcements?

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