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Pharmacies offered incentive payments to deliver ‘accelerated’ COVID-19 jabs

NHS England (NHSE) has announced that additional payments will be available for pharmacies that administer COVID-19 vaccinations in September and October.

The funding update comes as the government announced earlier this week (August 30) that both the flu and COVID-19 autumn vaccination programmes will begin “earlier than planned” in England on September 11.

In a letter sent to community pharmacies the same day, NHSE said that providers would be able to claim an “acceleration payment” of £10 for each COVID-19 vaccine administered to care home residents between September 11 and October 22.

Read more: Chaos and confusion: Sector leaders slam ‘shambolic start’ to autumn vaccinations

Providers will also be able to claim a separate one-off £200 payment for each care home whose vaccinations are completed by 11:59pm on October 22, confirmed to the commissioner by a survey no later than 11:59pm on October 29, it added.

Meanwhile, an additional £5 fee will also be paid for each COVID vaccine administered to other eligible cohorts between September 11 and October 31 to “support the acceleration” of the programme, NHSE said.

However, this excludes care home residents, the housebound and any health and care worker jabs commissioned under the NHS standard contract, it added.

Read more: UPDATED: Government U-turns on October start for flu and COVID-19 vaccinations

All additional vaccination payments will be made on top of the item of service (IoS) fees announced last month, the letter set out.

NHSE said that the “interim arrangements” reflected the “additional administrative, organisation and delivery costs” brought about by the accelerated start date.

 

Revised timings

 

Community Pharmacy England (CPE) set out the revised timings for the programme on Wednesday (August 30), saying that “the government would like as many people as possible to have been vaccinated [against COVID-19] by the end of October”.

It confirmed that pharmacies providing COVID jabs should begin delivering vaccinations for care home residents and the housebound from September 11 and ensure that all residents are vaccinated before October 22.

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

COVID vaccinations can also begin for other eligible people via local booking systems from September 11, starting with “those who are most at risk” such as the immunosuppressed”, it said.

And on September 18, the national booking system (NBS) will become available for eligible people to book a jab online, via the NHS app or by calling 119 and national COVID vaccination invitations will start being issued to eligible patients, it added.

It reiterated that patients should be offered flu and COVID-19 vaccinations at the same time “wherever possible”.

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

CPE said that flu jabs “can and should be offered to eligible patients in September” and that this week’s update supersedes previous instructions about the flu programme beginning in October, “unless firm commitments and appointments have already been made”.

The expression of interest process for pharmacies – which was due to close on August 29 – will now remain open until 5pm on September 4, it added.

 

‘More financially viable’

 

Alastair Buxton, CPE director of NHS services, welcomed the “good news on funding” that he said was “in line with [CPE’s] repeated warnings to NHSE that the fees being offered were too low”.

He added that “the acceleration payments for early vaccinations will make it more financially viable for some pharmacy owners to take part” and “may mean that more pharmacies are able to provide COVID vaccinations”.

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

“Community pharmacies stood ready to support the emergency COVID-19 vaccination programmes during the pandemic and many pharmacies still wish to play their part, so long as it makes economic sense, and so long as they can plan properly for it,” Mr Buxton said.

In a Tweet posted after the announcement, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) Dr Leyla Hannbeck also welcomed the “improved fees”.

But Malcolm Harrison, chief executive of the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA), urged the government to “review again the resource it puts into the vaccination programmes” given the “growing risk to public health”.

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

Community pharmacy leaders have criticised the “shambolic” and “short notice” changes to the start date of the NHS flu and COVID-19 vaccination services, after the government this week announced that both programmes would be brought forward.

The DH this week said that the new September start date is a “precautionary measure following the identification of a new COVID variant”.

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