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Sector counters 4 GP jabs at flu service

Pharmacy leaders, including Royal Pharmaceutical Society president Ash Soni, have rebuffed critical claims from GP leaders about the national service

EXCLUSIVE

Pharmacy leaders have issued a defiant response to criticism from leading GPs that a national pharmacy flu service will fail to boost vaccine uptake. 

Senior GPs, including Royal College of General Practitioners chair Maureen Baker, said that the planned vaccination service would increase GP workload and confuse "vulnerable" patients.

But pharmacy representatives rebuffed the concerns, saying the service – announced last week as part of the 2015-16 funding settlement – will make life easier for patients and allow the sector to better utilise its expertise.

1. It is confusing for patients

The criticism: Dr Baker said the scheme could lead to "potential confusion" among patients.

The response: Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) president Ash Soni told C+D the service simply “gave patients the option” of getting their flu jab at a pharmacy instead of a GP surgery.

“We have been offering the service in London for the last couple of years and we haven't seen any confusion,” Mr Soni said. “I don’t believe the risk is greater this year than in the past.”

Pharmacy Voice chief executive Rob Darracott said the service was “simple”. “Patients can have a flu vaccination in any community pharmacy, without need for appointment or referral,” he told C+D. 

Community pharmacist Stephen Eggleston said patients had already approached him to ask when he will start vaccinating because they “appreciate it is done when it suits them”.

2. It will undermine GPs

The criticism: Chair of the British Medical Association's (BMA) GP committee Chaand Nagpaul claimed the new service would "undermine" GP practices' "targeted approach" to vaccinations. He also raised concerns that issues with the transfer of data meant GPs would be unaware of which patients had been vaccinated. 

The response: Mr Darracott said GPs should work with pharmacists "to improve patient care and increase efficiency within the NHS".

Mr Soni agreed that the service “should be about collaboration”.

3. It will increase GP workload

The criticism: Deputy chair of the BMA's clinical and prescribing committee Bill Beeby said entering pharmacy vaccinations into GP practice systems would create extra work for his profession.

The response: North East London LPC chief executive Hemant Patel argued that GPs had chosen to hold on to this workload. “They insist on pharmacists having to fax the information to the surgeries,” Mr Patel said. “There is an electronic way that the record can be updated.”

The government has committed to start rolling out access to the summary care record in all English pharmacies from the autumn, and Mr Soni said granting pharmacies 'read-write' access to patient records would “solve the problem of increased GP workload overnight”. “GPs should be saying one of the values of 'write' access would be to write the fact [pharmacists] have vaccinated,” he added.

Mr Darracott said the flu service would allow community pharmacists to use their expertise to “free up GPs to help patients with more complex medical needs”.

4. It will waste vaccines

The criticism: Dr Baker said GPs could be left with unused stock.

The response: Although Mr Soni admitted there was a “slight risk” of this, he said practices and pharmacies could come to an "arrangement" over the extra vaccines.

Mr Patel added that GPs' first concern should be for patients, and they should "work together" with pharmacists to ensure no vaccines were wasted.


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