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Pharmacies should help deliver 24/7 COVID-19 vax service, Labour urges

The Labour party is calling on the government to commission England's community pharmacies to help deliver a 24/7 COVID-19 vaccination programme by the end of February.

Labour leader Keir Starmer will, on Thursday (January 14), call on the government to “capitalise on pharmacies’ strong local links and their offers to support the rollout to help deliver a faster, 24/7 [vaccination] programme” by the end of next month, the party has announced this evening.

As part of its “three steps to help speed up the [vaccination] programme across England”, the Labour party will urge the government to “put the nation’s 11,500 pharmacies at the heart of the rollout, to guarantee vaccines can be delivered on every high street”.

“Every high street has a pharmacy and I want to see every possible pharmacy deployed to help,” Mr Starmer said.

Last month (December 30), shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth called on the government to give pharmacists and GPs access to additional trained staff and public buildings to help them vaccinate a greater number of people. 

“Working flat out”

Commenting on the proposals, Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) president Sandra Gidley said: “Pharmacy is of course keen to contribute to the national effort and is already involved in a big way in hospitals and GP-led sites.”

But she stressed that providing a 24/7 vaccination service “would be very challenging”.

“The staff we do have are already working flat out and facing stress and burnout. Bringing more community pharmacies into the vaccination programme as it rolls out to increase capacity would seem a more logical option,” Ms Gidley added.

Earlier this week (January 11), vaccines deployment minister Nadhim Zahawi said that around 200 pharmacies are involved in the first phase of the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccination service, but more will join later.

His statement echoed health secretary Matt Hancock’s pledge on the same day to involve more pharmacies at a later stage of the vaccination campaign, to “persuade people…who are less certain that they want the vaccine to get the vaccine” and simplify access to it for those who “find it difficult to travel”.

Last week, C+D launched a petition urging NHSE&I to scrap the red tape and let more pharmacy teams across England pitch in with national COVID-19 vaccination efforts. Sign the petition.  

Would you be happy for your pharmacy to provide a 24/7 COVID-19 vaccination service?

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