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PSNC: Pharmacies could become ‘prime location’ for range of vaccinations

Community pharmacies in England could become a “prime location” for the provision of a wider range of vaccinations, helping the NHS tackle low uptake levels, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has suggested.

However, these additional services would need to be remunerated from extra funding outside the £2.5 billion pot allocated to pharmacies yearly via the contractual framework, PSNC argued in its response to NHS England’s (NHSE) market engagement on the future of vaccination services.

Former health secretary Sajid Javid revealed plans for a national vaccination service earlier this year.

NHSE later announced that it was launching a market engagement exercise to help inform its future vaccination and immunisation strategy.

 

Current barriers

 

However, PSNC acknowledged that broadening the number of vaccinations offered via community pharmacies comes with its own obstacles.

The negotiator understands that, at present, it is “not currently possible to significantly increase the number of delivery points” through the ImmForm vaccine distribution system for the centrally procured vaccines that are used in most NHS vaccination programmes.

Read more: Pharmacies in England administered almost 4.8 million flu jabs in 2021/22, PSNC confirms

“It may, in time, be possible for the contracting of this system to be reviewed, but alternatively, we suggest that UK Health Security Agency, the Department of Health and Social Care and NHSE consider discussing the opportunities for distributing centrally procured vaccines to pharmacies through contracts with a pharmaceutical wholesaler,” PSNC suggested.

Wholesalers have in the past distributed centrally procured COVID-19 vaccines to pharmacies, PSNC pointed out.

Were pharmacies asked to offer a wider range of NHS vaccinations, an increased use of “interoperable IT systems” would also be needed so that appointments and communications to patients could be managed digitally, PSNC added.

 

Convenience of community pharmacies

 

Following a “significant growth” in number of flu jabs administered in pharmacies, the public recognises the “sector’s accessibility as a place to be vaccinated and the quality of the service being provided”, PSNC said.

“Taking the convenience of the community pharmacy vaccination offer, aligned with the ability to also engage with less well served groups in the population, we believe pharmacies are well placed to become a prime location for the provision of a wide range of NHS vaccination programmes,” PSNC argued.

The negotiator envisages a model where integrated care boards commission local services using nationally developed directions.

“Such an approach would allow local flexibility and innovation, while also reducing the hurdles that need to be overcome to commission a service from scratch at a local level,” it added.

Commenting on PSNC’s suggestions, director of NHS services Alastair Buxton stressed that using pharmacies to deliver a range of NHS vaccinations “makes perfect sense”.

“In the longer term, if the right funding and support is in place, many pharmacies could help deliver a much wider range of NHS vaccination programmes – giving the public the convenience and service that they want, and taking pressure off our general practice colleagues,” he added.

NHSE’s market engagement exercise will accept responses until October 7.

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