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PSNC: Pharmacy is ‘logical’ provider of national COVID-19 vaccination service

A Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) director has told C+D that community pharmacy would be “the logical place” for an annual national booster service  although it needs the "right funding and support".

Following confirmation from NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) on pharmacy’s increasing role in the COVID-19 booster programme, PSNC director Alastair Buxton told C+D that “if the population needs a regular COVID-19 booster vaccination over the next few years, the logical place for those to be administered is in community pharmacies".

Community pharmacy’s “amazing flu vaccination performance this year” has demonstrated the “vaccination capability” of pharmacy teams, Mr Buxton said last week (December 3).

“With the right funding and support, the sector could definitely play a major role in any future ‘business as usual’ booster programme,” he continued.

“That support would ideally include making permanent the pandemic flexibilities that allow non-registered staff to administer vaccines following appropriate training and also allowing pharmacy technicians to operate under a patient group direction.”

The Department of Health and Social Care and NHSE&I have been approached for comment.


NHSE&I discussing support measures with PSNC


In a letter sent to pharmacy contractors last week, NHSE&I confirmed the “enhanced financial support” community pharmacy-led local vaccination sites will receive, following an announcement earlier in the week.

Pharmacy-led sites will receive £15 per jab administered on weekdays and Saturdays from December 1, 2021 to January 31, 2022. Over the same period, pharmacies will receive £20 per vaccination administered on Sundays and bank holidays.

NHSE&I is in talks with PSNC about “any further measures that may be required to support community pharmacy in delivering vaccinations”.


AIMp: Give pharmacy same support as GPs


Leyla Hannbeck, the Association of Independent Multiple pharmacies (AIMp) chief executive officer, told C+D last week: “With the government plans to increase the number of pharmacies participating in this programme to more than 1,500 sites, we believe that we can be a great solution in achieving the targets to vaccinate as many people as possible this winter.”

Dr Hannbeck welcomed NHSE&I’s decision to suspend parts of the Quality Outcome Framework (QOF) for GPs, increasing the time they can spend delivering more COVID-19 booster jabs.

She added: “We have been asking the government to do the same for community pharmacies, suspending the Pharmacy Quality Scheme with immediate effect to allow us to put our focus and priorities on our patients this winter, delivering the biggest vaccination programme in the country.”

The codes pharmacies must use to dispense lateral flow tests also costs pharmacies “endless time”, Dr Hannbeck said, as they need to enter the codes on the manage your service portal. 


Vaccine availability “needs to be addressed”


In the letter sent to contractors, NHSE&I reiterated that the ‘new national mission’ is to increase vaccine capacity.

NHSE&I claimed that there are no supply challenges with either the Moderna or Pfizer booster stocks, and "therefore all vaccination sites are now asked to load their National Booking System (NBS) calendars to the end of January, where possible”.

But Dr Hannbeck told C+D that reports from AIMp members in different parts of the country “suggest that the NBS system does not allow them to fully load calendars due to availability of vaccines”.

NHSE&I must address this issue “as soon as possible”, she added.  


Pharmacy needs “backing and support of government”


Clare Kerr, head of healthcare policy and strategy at McKesson UK and a member of PSNC’s negotiating team, said the sector supports the national ambition to deliver more booster jabs.

“But this combined effort by the health service will put yet more pressure on primary care,” she added.

“All pharmacies want to play their part in this mission – whether by vaccinating people or picking up displaced patients as GPs and others focus more of their resource onto the vaccination programme – but they need the backing and support of government to reach their full potential to do so.”

Last week, 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.

During the Downing Street news conference on Tuesday, NHSE&I chief executive Amanda 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.


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