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GPs: Pharmacy may share blame for lower flu jab uptake

Just 34% of under-65s in at-risk groups have been vaccinated this flu season, 5% less than at the same point last year, according to Public Health England data

Pharmacy is partly to blame for a lower flu vaccination uptake than last year, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has said.

Public Health England (PHE) statistics released yesterday (November 13) show that 34% of under-65s in at-risk groups have been vaccinated this flu season, five percentage points less than at the same point last year.

The GP body told C+D that the national pharmacy flu service has “probably played a part” in this decrease, although it has “no way of knowing” for certain. Mild weather and the ineffectiveness of last winter’s vaccine could also have contributed to the low uptake, it added.

PHE also suggested that the pharmacy flu service could be "partly" responsible for the low figures due to the under-reporting of vaccinations. "NHS England has confirmed that 400,000 vaccinations have been given to adults in risk groups through pharmacies so far this season and it's likely that some of these vaccinations have yet to be entered onto patient records," said PHE head of seasonal flu surveillance Dr Richard Pebody.

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) said it has “no evidence to suggest pharmacists are not informing GP practices about flu vaccinations”. “Indeed, [we] can think of no reason why they would not – doing so is in everyone’s best interests,” it added.

"Obligation" to record data

NHS England told C+D that GPs have an “obligation” to record information they receive from pharmacists about vaccinated patients in that patient’s clinical record. Decisions about how data is shared between the two professions are made by local teams, it said.

PHE data also showed that vaccination uptake among over-65s has only reached 59%, a three percentage points drop compared with the same point last year. However, the 33% uptake among pregnant women is the same level as last year, according to the data.

The RCGP released its own “alarming” flu statistics yesterday, which revealed that the 101 practices it surveyed over the previous week had given an average of 6% less jabs than at the same period last year. Some family doctors told the RCGP that their surgery fridges are “full of unused vaccines because patients are not turning up in the usual numbers”, it said.


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