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NHS tests pharmacy flu jab booking portal in effort to ‘increase uptake’

Patients might be able to book their pharmacy flu jab via the central NHS COVID-19 vaccination booking portal in the future, depending on the results of a pilot, it has emerged.

Following the NHS Booking Service's (NBS) “success” in reserving COVID-19 vaccination appointments, up to 400 community pharmacies in the north west of England will be selected for the pilot – which aims to understand if the portal can be used to book flu jab appointments, too.

C+D understands that pharmacies across Cheshire and Merseyside integrated care system (ICS), Greater Manchester ICS, and Lancashire and South Cumbria ICS are within the geographical remit of this pilot.

Read more: Deja-flu: NHS confirms COVID booster campaign and flu jab launch dates

Launching on October 15 – to coincide with the 50-64 year old cohort becoming eligible for free NHS flu vaccinations – the pilot will run until mid-December.

In order to participate in the pilot, contractors must complete an expression of interest form by the end of September 14. They must also commit to uploading “a minimum of one seasonal flu vaccination clinic a week through October to December”, according to the form.

 

Increasing patients’ choice and uptake

 

Contractors under the pilot must either run an existing community pharmacy-led COVID-19 site using the NBS or run a “new flu-only” community pharmacy to target communities with lower flu vaccination rates, C+D understands.

The pilot aims to increase patient choice and visibility of flu vaccine availability for providers and patients across the north west of England.

It is hoped the pilot will help the NHS understand whether a national booking platform could increase uptake levels for each flu cohort and prove whether patients and pharmacy contractors utilise NBS for non-COVID-19 vaccinations.

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

The pilot also aims to support the expansion of cohorts eligible for a flu jab and relieve pressure on general practice over the autumn and winter periods, C+D understands.

Greater Manchester local pharmaceutical committee CEO Luvjit Kandula welcomes the pilot as a “really positive step” for both patients and NHS staff, she told C+D.

Pharmacies have predicted increased demand for this year’s flu vaccination service, after government guidance issued in July indicated “this year could see higher levels of influenza due to increased social activity, international travel and reduced use of face masks following the pandemic”.

Last year proved a record-breaking year for the national flu vaccine rollout, which saw pharmacy teams in England smash their previous flu jab administration record within just two months of launching the 2021/22 service.

 

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