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Xrayser: To jab or not to jab? That is the question

As the early flu and COVID-19 inoculation programme for the most vulnerable has begun this week, Xrayser steadies themselves in amongst the dizzying situation that has left many HCPs tearing up their autumn vaccination plans

Is anyone else really confused about the winter vaccination programme? Flu jabs, which we buy a year in advance and start in September (granted we normally get the service spec on the 31st of August 2023) was changed last minute to start in October, instead.


The reason stated that we need the protection later through the winter season and while we can’t argue with that, especially as the first few days of September have so far felt hotter than August, we can question the logistics for all those pharmacies who have planned flu season months ago. This was after a frantic rush by pharmacies to reduce order volumes after the announcement that 50-64 cohort wasn’t going to be included in this year’s NHS eligible cohort (days after the ordering window for flu vaccinations closed).


Lobbying from Community Pharmacy England following the delayed start date led to a slight turnaround from NHSE which stated that if appointments had been booked, they could be honoured. How on earth will they check all those pharmacies that still use paper diaries to book appointments?


Read more: Xrayser: Winter is coming – but are we prepared to meet the added pressures?


As HCPs, if we feel that we don’t know whether we are coming or going, I can’t imagine how the public must be feeling. Oh well, at least it all got sorted in the end without pharmacies having to cancel all those booked appointments, yet the stress and panic it causes though is never factored into any decisions made. Maybe it’s because community pharmacy is resilient, used to rapid change and we just get on with it – as always!


Now that flu vaccinations are sorted, we can move on to the debacle that surrounded COVID-19 vaccinations. The COVID-19 vaccination programme has been successful in the UK thanks to community pharmacy and PCNs like NHSE and DoH. If something is not broken, how can we break it? I know, let’s pay less to providers. As the cost-of-living increases, we should decrease the payment for COVID-19 vaccinations to providers by 25%. Lots of pharmacists saying it’s not worth it, the cost barely covers the admin of ordering stock and managing the booking system which, quite frankly, is not fit for purpose.


Then another vaccination curveball, a last-minute change as panic sets in. COVID-19 is back (had it really gone away?) numbers are increasing, we need to vaccinate the most vulnerable as soon as possible. Let’s get more providers, let’s pay more money per vaccination and let’s reintroduce the bonus payment for care home patients. This may seem like a positive turn around but how can pharmacists plan workload, plan to protect local communities and be confident in the messages we give to the public if we can’t trust that things won’t change tomorrow. 


We need to be confident that good decisions are being made, it is difficult with the ever-evolving information, but it feels as though knee jerk reactions are now the norm and the NHS and community pharmacy no longer have a large enough workforce to keep reacting. But we still do. Patients need us to protect them, so we about turn and carry on through the last minute ill considered changes.


Read more: Who took home a trophy at the C+D Awards 2023?


I couldn’t end this month’s blog without celebrating how amazing the C&D awards were. Didn’t our C&D editor Beth look amazing?! Now I know you’re all trying to remember who was there and the sleuths amongst you will be scanning social media and trying to guess who I am. Perhaps the question you should be asking is, was I there? Xrayser lurking behind the plant pots at The Brewery (although you’re more likely to have found me in front of the bar!).

I may not actually have been there, while I can’t reveal my sources, just know that they’re everywhere (as are the photos on social media!).


The identity of Xrayser remains a mystery, but their irreverent views are known by all. You can Tweet them @Xrayserpharmacy

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