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Contractors reluctant to offer COVID-19 jabs after fee slashed, C+D survey finds

Many pharmacy contractors will opt out of offering COVID-19 vaccines this season, a C+D poll has suggested.

In a snapshot survey of pharmacy owners held between August 9-11, 74% of 156 contractor respondents said that they would not be offering the COVID-19 jab in their pharmacy for the upcoming season.

It follows an updated service specification update last week (August 4) in which NHS England (NHSE) announced that it would reduce the fee paid to community pharmacies for COVID-19 vaccinations by 25% – from £10 to £7.54 – as it launched the expression of interest process for autumn 2023.

Read more: Pharmacies to be paid £17.12 for co-administering COVID and flu jabs

NHSE has also widened the eligibility criteria for community pharmacies to provide COVID-19 vaccinations, meaning that more could start offering the service this season if they choose to do so.

 

No thanks

 

Two-thirds of contractors who responded to C+D’s poll (67%) indicated that they had administered the vaccine in previous cycles of the service.

But of the 105 contractors who indicated that they had previously offered the COVID-19 vaccination service, 70% said they would no longer be offering it.

Meanwhile, just 20% of the 51 contractors who said they had not previously offered the vaccine indicated that they will now sign up for the service. 

 

 

 

It comes as NHSE has made it easier for community pharmacies to offer COVID-19 jabs.

According to Community Pharmacy England’s (CPE) memo released after the NHSE announcement, many more community pharmacies will be eligible to administer the COVID-19 vaccine in-house this season.

Read more: ‘Defies logic’: COVID jab fee plummets 25% as service opens to all pharmacies

Previously, pharmacies could only apply to offer the service if the NHSE identified a need in the local area. Now, the commissioner has decided that any pharmacy capable of meeting the vaccination requirements (such as being able to administer 100 vaccines per week) can sign up as a service provider.

Furthermore, as C+D reported last week, administering the COVID-19 vaccine at the same time as the flu jab would net community pharmacies £17.12 – 48p less than GP clinics will receive for precisely the same service.

 

Slashed fee “highly demotivating”

Last week (August 8), CPE director of NHS services Alastair Buxton blasted NHSE’s decision to reduce the fee for COVID-19 jabs, saying that it “defies logic”.

But he added that it may “bring an opportunity” to some pharmacy contractors who had missed out on previous rounds of the service.

And National Pharmacy Association (NPA) chair Nick Kaye told C+D last week (August 9) that the fee reduction was “extremely disappointing” and “highly demotivating” for pharmacy contractors.

Read more: Deliver all adult vaccinations through community pharmacy, think tank urges

”The service is no easier or cheaper to provide than it was before,” he said.

A spokesperson for NHSE told C+D on August 7 that the revised fee will “sufficiently cover the average cost of vaccinating someone against COVID-19 as part of what is now a more predictable, seasonal offer”.

They said that NHSE is confident that £7.54 covers workforce, administrative and overhead costs, based on an assumption that a typical vaccination takes five minutes to administer.

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