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UPDATED: NPA threatens NHSE with ‘compensation claims’ over delayed flu programme

The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has threatened NHS England (NHSE) with legal action over financial losses caused by the delay to the start of this year’s flu programme, it has announced.

The NPA today (August 21) said that it has told NHSE that its members “have a legal basis on which to seek compensation should they incur losses” due to the changes to the start date of the NHS flu vaccination service in England.


It said that it had issued the “challenge” to the commissioner after taking “advice from lawyers”.


In a letter sent to NHSE chief executive Amanda Pritchard today, the NPA said that its members “have, at their own risk, procured stock with a legitimate expectation that the service would be commissioned as normal”.


Read more: UPDATED: Pharmacy flu jab appointments already booked for September 'can go ahead’


It warned that the commissioner could face “compensation claims” over the delay announced earlier this month.


NPA chief executive Mark Lyonette said that NHSE “should expect to be held responsible for financial losses incurred – including wasted stock, additional storage costs and additional staffing costs – resulting from the late announcement to delay the NHS flu service”.


He added that the organisation will help its members to determine “whether they have suffered a loss and have a realistic prospect of a successful claim for compensation”.



Warning of “possible consequences”



Mr Lyonette said that while the NPA welcomed the recent concession allowing appointments prebooked for September to go ahead, it “still maintains that it is a mistake to throw a previously successful NHS scheme into confusion by delaying the start date”.


He added that NHSE “could choose to revert to usual practice” to “maximise the effectiveness” of the campaign “even at this late stage” and that the NPA “[thinks] it is right to warn them of the possible consequences if they choose not to do so”.


Read more: Superdrug kicks off private flu jab service with £8.79 price point


The NPA said that it decided to “escalate the matter” following legal advice, both to improve the current situation and to “send a message” about the “need for due process” in the future .


It reiterated that the “eleventh hour change” was “highly demotivating” for “hard-pressed pharmacy contractors”, some of whom are “already at a financial cliff edge”.

NHSE told C+D that it has received the letter and is considering a response.


Flu jab drama



NHSE confirmed earlier this month that NHS flu jab appointments that had already been booked for September could still go ahead, despite a delayed start to the service that was only communicated to pharmacies days before.


While the NHS flu vaccination service usually launches in England on September 1, NHSE announced on August 10 that NHS flu vaccinations would be available to residents of older adult care homes from October 2, with appointments to be made available to all other eligible groups the following week from October 7.

Read more: Sector leaders urge ministers to prevent ‘unacceptable’ delayed flu service start

The decision sparked a backlash from community pharmacy leaders, who branded the delayed start to the service “unacceptable”.

Sector leaders also slammed the “deeply frustrating” decision to freeze the level of funding for the flu vaccination service for a further year.

It comes as Superdrug last week announced that it has opened bookings for its private flu vaccination service – with jabs for its health and beauty card holders priced at just £8.79.


Read more: ‘Deeply frustrating’: CPE slams frozen flu funding amid possible delays to service

Meanwhile, under new service specifications, administering the NHS flu jab at the same time as the COVID-19 vaccine will net community pharmacies £17.12 in the upcoming season – 48p less than GP clinics will receive for precisely the same service.


But in C+D's 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 due to a lower administration fee compared to previous seasons.

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