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‘Give us the opportunity’: Pharmacy should take lead on vaccinations, says AIMp

The Association of Independent Multiple pharmacies (AIMp) is calling on decision makers to broaden the range of vaccination services offered via pharmacies.

AIMp launched a campaign earlier this month – which will run until the end of November – to highlight patients’ appreciation of the vaccination services already on offer in pharmacies across England.

“Patients love the convenience, professionalism and accessibility that pharmacy offers,” AIMp CEO Leyla Hannbeck told C+D.

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

“At a time when GPs and the rest of [our] NHS colleagues are under pressure, we are asking that decision makers give pharmacy the opportunity and funding to lead on the delivery of vaccination services to ease the pressure on the NHS,” she added.

The campaign was inspired by the positive patient feedback shared by both independent pharmacies and AIMp members and the fact that GPs and nurses are overwhelmed by their workloads.

Read more: NHSE: Pharmacies can help with more services, but sector is ‘fragile’

“Pharmacy, if funded properly, is the best place for vaccination: accessible, professional and the patient feedback has been amazing. If pharmacy takes on the vaccination services, it will free up loads of time in GP practices to do patient appointments,” Dr Hannbeck added.

But pharmacies must be funded appropriately if they are asked to deliver a broader range of vaccinations, she said.

Ian Strachan, pharmacist and owner of Strachans Chemists in the north west of England, told C+D the campaign would help to highlight pharmacy's role in vaccination services.

“Not a day goes by where our patients do not champion the benefits of vaccination through pharmacies," he said.

 

No negative feedback

 

Lila Thakrar, superintendent pharmacist and owner of Shaftesbury Pharmacy in Harrow, north-west London, told C+D that her pharmacy offers both the COVID-19 and flu vaccination services.

Patients are “raving on about the way we are providing the service”, she said. “It’s seamless, there are just no issues with being vaccinated in pharmacies.”

She believes that pharmacies could take on more vaccination services, but “referrals and demand” need to be there, as vaccines are difficult to stock up on due to their short expiry date.

In December last year, she was able to show the strength of her vaccination services to the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester when they visited the pharmacy. 

The Duchess of Gloucester visiting Shaftesbury Pharmacy last year. Pic credit Bhupendra Jethwa

 

“Move forward” with pharmacy vax services

 

Meanwhile, Mitesh Patel – pharmacist and owner of Medicine Clinic Pharmacies, a 12-branch chain in the south of England – told C+D that the COVID-19 vaccination programme has highlighted how much pharmacies can do. Many are now also vaccinating children under the programme, he pointed out.

If the government does not take these efforts into consideration to commission a wider range of vaccination services from pharmacies, it “would be a backward step”, Mr Patel said.

“We’ve had some amazing feedback from patients,” he commented.

Patients who have used his vaccination services – including former chief pharmaceutical officer for England, Keith Ridge (pictured below with Mr Patel), who was given his COVID-19 jab at the pharmacy – were impressed by the accessibility of his pharmacies.

Former chief pharmaceutical officer for England Keith Ridge getting a COVID-19 vaccination

“A lot of people have been really surprised and grateful at the same time, because they’ve not had to take a day off work and…it has not disrupted their lifestyle too much,” he added.

Saghir Ahmed, superintendent pharmacist at Imaan Healthcare, agreed that the COVID-19 vaccination service has shown that pharmacists and their teams are able to “operationally set up efficient, safe, fast services that patients want”.

He continued: “We all know that if you put these sorts of services in a pharmacy, we’re not going to turn away the work, we’re not going to say that we’re not going to make it successful, we’re not going to say that we’re not appreciative of the extra workload that comes our way.”

“As community pharmacy, we just take it, we absorb the work, and we just carry on with it,” he added.

Imaan Healthcare team at one of its pharmacy-lead COVID-19 vaccination sites

Dr Hannbeck told C+D that AIMp is planning to share its campaign materials with the Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England.

Pharmacy teams in England are encouraged to share photos and videos to support the campaign and send them to [email protected].

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