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GP practice accused of ‘emotionally blackmailing’ patients with flu comms

A Hampshire GP practice has been accused of “emotionally blackmailing” patients into getting their flu jab at the surgery by claiming it “depends” on the income generated by the service.

Rowlands Castle Surgery, located in the Rowland’s Castle village, sent text messages – seen by C+D – to its patients, in which it wrote that it “depends on the income of the flu campaign to support the services we offer throughout the year”.

Meanwhile, in a message to patients published on its website, it added: “We will be holding our clinics in the surgery this year and hope you will choose to have your flu vaccination with us so we can continue to run a successful flu campaign every year.”

The surgery does not work with “any pharmacy” to offer the flu vaccination service, it wrote in its communications.

A pharmacy manager at a local community pharmacy, who wishes to remain anonymous, told C+D that they think these messages are “emotionally blackmailing” patients into getting their jab at the GP practice.

They claimed that “the public are saying they will not get their vaccine with pharmacies now, as they do not want to jeopardise the care they get from their GP surgery”.

Read more: 50-64-year-olds now eligible for free flu jab in 2022/23 season, DH confirms

However, the GP practice’s manager Janine Leake told C+D: “We see no issue with surgeries or pharmacies asking patients to choose them for having their vaccinations and then patients making their own choice. We do not feel this would constitute emotional blackmail.”

Ms Leake acknowledged that both GP surgeries and pharmacies are facing financial pressures nationwide, and “both businesses will be motivated to maintain their income in this market”.


Patients taking it out on pharmacy teams


But the anonymous pharmacy manager claimed that their staff have now been “shouted at, abused and sworn at” for offering the flu vaccination service.

In one instance, a patient allegedly told the pharmacy staff that it was wrong for them to provide the flu vaccination service, while the “local surgery is needing the money”, the pharmacy manager told C+D.

“It is demoralising and makes staff not want to work in the pharmacy sector,” they added.

Ms Leake said the practice is “shocked and perturbed” to learn that its communication has triggered this response from patients, “and condemns any threatening behaviour towards all healthcare professionals”.

“This would seem out of proportion with what has been sent” as the GP practice’s letter and text was not critical towards pharmacies and patients did not express the same views with the GP practice’s staff, she added.

Read more:
Manufacturers on track to meet demand after U-turn on free flu jabs for over-50s


Neither the local medical committee nor the local pharmaceutical committee wished to comment on this occasion, when approached by C+D.

Commenting on this episode, Association of Independent Multiple pharmacies (AIMp) CEO Leyla Hannbeck told C+D that it is “concerning to see such letters from some GP practices causing stress for patients and pharmacy teams”.

“It is important that pharmacies and GP colleagues work together ensuring best interest of the patients,” Dr Hannbeck added.

Last year, pharmacies in Hampshire told C+D that patients were cancelling their pharmacy flu jab bookings after Rowlands Castle Surgery warned of vaccine wastage if they did not book with them. 

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