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No state indemnity for pharmacy sites in COVID booster vax programme

The state indemnity scheme will not cover community pharmacy teams that take part in the COVID-19 booster vaccination programme, NHSE&I has confirmed.

Speaking at a webinar for community pharmacies and GP practices last night (July 15), NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) director of primary care vaccination Caroline Temmink said that community pharmacies will have to pay for indemnity cover in the third phase of the COVID-19 vaccination programme.

The community pharmacy local enhanced service (LES) specification for the programme – which NHSE&I released on Wednesday (July 14) – specifies that pharmacy contractors “must ensure that they have in place appropriate indemnity and/or insurance arrangements that provide adequate cover, including but not limited to clinical negligence cover, in relation to the delivery of this LES agreement”.

Ms Temmink said yesterday that “the government is working really closely with the insurance sector to make sure that, actually, that's as affordable as possible”.

State-backed indemnity coming to an end

Meanwhile, the enhanced service specification for GP practices’ engagement in phase 3 of the programme specifies that the “Clinical Negligence Scheme for General Practice (CNSGP) provides clinical negligence indemnity cover for all staff engaged by a GP practice under the CNSGP Regulations”.

In December last year, the government announced that pharmacies would be covered by the Clinical Negligence Scheme for Coronavirus (CNSC). The CNSC is administered by NHS Resolution, the body that deals with clinical negligence claims against the NHS in England.

However, a previous community pharmacy LES specification that was first published on December 28 was updated on July 2 to read that “state indemnity is provided until October 31, 2021 and afterward a risk-sharing arrangement will be adopted”.

C+D has asked the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) why community pharmacy-led sites will have to pay for their own indemnity going forward, while GPs can continue to rely on the CNSGP.

A National Pharmacy Association spokesperson told C+D today (July 16) that the organisation has been "working closely with the NHS throughout the pandemic to ensure that pharmacies have had access to affordable cover solutions and this will carry on into phase 3”.

Plan for co-administration scenario

NHSE&I medical director for primary care Nikita Kanani, who also spoke during the webinar, said that NHSE&I remains supportive of healthcare professionals administering flu and COVID-19 vaccines at the same appointment “as long as the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation continues to support it”.

“What we’re trying to do is work from the fact that we […] plan [for] the most likely scenarios, and I ask you to do that as well. We want you to be able to co-administer as much as possible, as long as it feels doable, but everything will not be doable to everyone at the same time,” Dr Kanani said.

The webinar attendees were also updated on a new process of vaccine supply for phase 3, which NHSE&I calls a “capped pull-ordering” model. This means that, unlike the previous phases, it will be up to vaccination sites to order their stock, “pulling from an agreed maximum cap” – the details of which are expected soon.

NHSE&I announced this week that all community pharmacies in England, including those with a “low capacity site”, are encouraged to express an interest in delivering the COVID-19 booster vaccination programme.

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