More pharmacies set to offer COVID-19 jabs as NHSE&I boosts vax fee to £15
The number of pharmacies in England delivering COVID-19 vaccinations will rise “to more than 1,500”, while the £12.58 fee pharmacies currently receive per jab will also increase, the government and NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) have announced.
Speaking at the Downing Street news conference yesterday (November 30), Amanda Pritchard, chief executive of NHSE&I, announced that primary care providers – including pharmacy-led sites – will receive £15 for each jab administered from Monday to Saturday. This fee applies from today (December 1) until the end of January 2022.
This is an increase of almost 20% on the £12.58 currently received per COVID-19 vaccination under the national programme.
To “increase capacity on Sundays, when community pharmacies are not usually open”, she added, pharmacies will receive £20 per vaccination administered on Sundays.
Pharmacies will also be offered “a £30 premium” for vaccinations delivered to housebound patients until the end of December, Ms Pritchard confirmed.
“We’re also looking at whether we can safely reduce or even eliminate the fifteen-minute wait after the jab is delivered,” she announced, “so we could potentially increase the number of people able to get jabs every day in smaller sites like pharmacies”.
1,500 pharmacies included in programme
As of November 19, 1,464 pharmacy-led vaccination sites were signed up to offer COVID-19 vaccines, according to data from NHSE&I.
But during the Downing Street news conference yesterday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that booster doses will now be administered at “more than 1,500 community pharmacy sites”, as well as at extra hospital hubs and mobile vaccination units. An additional 400 military personnel will also be deployed to help with the rollout.
NHSE&I is expected to issue detailed guidance to pharmacists about the expansion of the COVID-19 booster vaccine programme later today.
A spokesperson for the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) told C+D: “We welcome the government’s plans to expand the COVID-19 booster vaccination programme, including within community pharmacies.
“We are very proud of the role that CCA members and the wider sector have played in administering 15 million COVID-19 vaccines in over 1,400 pharmacy sites so far, demonstrating a tremendous ‘can-do’ attitude from pharmacy teams,” they added.
Meanwhile, Andrew Lane, chair of the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) told C+D that it is “no surprise that the NHS has come knocking in relation to the booster programme”, given “the success of pharmacies in the earlier phases of the vaccination programme”.
“The uplift in fees is a recognition of the intensity of the work and the urgent priority being given to getting people protected against COVID-19 this winter,” he added.
Vaccine programme “in its most complex phase”
On Monday (November 29), the government accepted the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation’s recommendation that the COVID-19 booster programme be expanded to everyone over the age of 18. It also accepted that the six-month waiting time for a booster jab should be shortened to three months after the patient's last COVID-19 vaccine.
Yesterday, Ms Pritchard confirmed that it is NHSE&I’s “intention to ensure that everyone eligible for a booster is given the chance to book one" before the end of January 2022.
“To make this happen, we will need to expand vaccination capacity right across the NHS,” she added.
Earlier today, health secretary Sajid Javid said the vaccination programme would need to deliver one million more COVID-19 vaccinations per week to reach that target, and stressed that additional volunteers would be needed. The Department of Health and Social Care has been approached for comment.
Meanwhile, head of the COVID-19 vaccination programme, Emily Lawson, told pharmacy contractors last month that NHSE&I would like pharmacies to “up” their COVID-19 vaccination efforts to help the NHS hit a 100 million COVID-19 doses milestone by December 8, the anniversary of the UK’s first COVID-19 vaccine injection.
Ms Pritchard told the conference yesterday: “Our hardworking GPs, community pharmacists and their primary care colleagues have delivered the lion’s share of the vaccinations so far. We’re looking at how we can help them to do even more jabs by cutting other burdens on them to free up clinicians’ time.
“We will ensure they are properly rewarded for their efforts, particularly when they take time to visit vulnerable housebound patients who can’t travel to vaccination sites,” she added.
“The NHS COVID-19 vaccination programme was already in its most complex phase and staff are now working at breakneck speed to respond to this – the biggest change in eligibility since the programme was launched.”
Concerns raised over impact of “additional workload” on pharmacies
However, a spokesperson for the CCA told C+D that the trade association is “still concerned about the shortage of pharmacists across the UK and about how any additional workload will impact on the ability of pharmacies to continue to deliver core pharmaceutical services for the NHS”.
Nonetheless “our members’ pharmacies stand ready to continue to support the NHS to ensure people within local communities can access the protection they need”, they added.
The NPA’s Mr Lane told C+D: “Looking further forward, pharmacies will probably still be protecting people long after the mass vaccination centres have been wound down.
“With community pharmacy in the mix of providers,” he added, “the burden is not all on GPs who also have the mammoth task of helping clear the NHS care backlog”.
Chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in England Thorrun Govind also called for the acceleration of the booster rollout to “be backed up [by] adequate vaccine supplies” for pharmacies, alongside “a robust booking system, and clear communication with the public on when they are eligible to come forward”.
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