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Pharmacies to get £15 per consultation in pilot to tackle COVID-19 jab fears

A new pharmacy walk-in consultation service has been commissioned in Tower Hamlets, east London, to help address COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in some communities.  

Reported COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy is “high for some groups in Tower Hamlets” and “significant numbers of residents remain unvaccinated”, the borough’s council revealed in the service specification.

As of May 1, just 68% of those eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccination in Tower Hamlets had received a first dose, with 61.7% of that group opting to have a second dose.

Read more: Eradicating COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy in BAME groups

Just 40.1% of those eligible have had a booster dose.

“Evidence clearly indicates that patients value talking directly to a trusted health professional when considering whether or not to have a COVID-19 vaccine,” Tower Hamlets Council acknowledged.

“Community pharmacists in Tower Hamlets are well placed to provide that support”.


About the pilot


Under the service, community pharmacists in participating pharmacies can support patients by offering one-to-one sessions in consultation rooms “which are accessible, have personal protective equipment and can provide privacy”, the council said.

Pharmacies can also provide remote consultations via telephone and video calls, for those who are more digitally advanced.

At the end of the consultation – expected to last around 10 minutes – patients are offered the option to leave the pharmacy and take time to reflect before choosing whether to be vaccinated.

Read more: Healthcare staff should get COVID-19 booster jab in autumn, JCVI advises

Participating pharmacies will be remunerated £15 per consultation under the service, which has been commissioned until December 16.

“It is also expected that pharmacies will work with nearby care homes to improve vaccination rates among care homes staff,” the council said.

Participating pharmacists must first complete mandatory Health Education England (HEE) COVID-19 vaccination training, designed to support COVID-19 vaccinators and volunteers with patient conversations around vaccine hesitancy.


“We have had over 400 conversations”


Before being commissioned by Tower Hamlets Council, the service was initially developed by Shilpa Shah, chief executive officer at North-East London local pharmaceutical committee in partnership with Cavita Chapman, head of equality, diversity and inclusion at the regional NHS England and NHS Improvement team in the south east.

“A community pharmacy setting feels informal compared to some other healthcare professional settings and we know that this often comforts patients and allows them to feel confident in asking questions and getting advice,” Ms Shah told C+D yesterday (August 8).

“People were more likely to believe what they were reading on social media or what their friends were telling them. It felt as though this was happening more in ethnic minority areas where perhaps people did not feel confident to ask a healthcare practitioner in fear of being judged for not having had the vaccine,” she added.

Ms Shah shared her concerns with the Tower Hamlets public health team while discussing vaccination rates on a team call, which led to the service being commissioned.

Since the pilot was launched in June, “we have had over 400 conversations with people about the importance of having their COVID-19 vaccine”, she told C+D, alleviating “any concerns they may have so that they can make an informed decision”.


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