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UPDATED: NHSE vaccination strategy points to ‘greater role’ for community pharmacy

A new NHS England (NHSE) vaccination strategy has set out an integral role for community pharmacy, as well as the possibility of centralised flu jab procurement. 

Community pharmacy could have “a greater role in seasonal vaccination” in the future, according to NHS England’s new vaccination strategy published today (December 13).


The report marks the first occasion that the health service has integrated “all vaccination programmes” into one strategy, according to its foreword by NHSE national director for vaccinations and screening Steve Russell.


Read more: Wicker Pharmacy’s homeless vaccine programme plugs ‘obvious gap'


Community Pharmacy England (CPE) today said that the strategy seeks to “delegate commissioning responsibility for vaccination services” from NHSE to integrated care boards (ICBs). 


And the NHSE document said that the national commissioner “[expects] in future” that local commissioners “can enable community pharmacy to play a greater role in seasonal vaccination delivery where appropriate”.


This includes “increased collaboration between community pharmacy and other parts of the vaccination delivery network”, it added.



Centralised flu jab procurement?



The document also said that NHSE and the government will “consider the potential impact of centralising the procurement of adult flu vaccine”.


It added that they will “undertake cost–benefit analysis…to explore whether centralising the procurement and supply of adult flu vaccine could deliver better outcomes and address the existing clinical, operational and financial challenges associated with local procurement”.


Read more: Number of pharmacies offering NHS COVID-19 jabs rockets to almost double


Centralised procurement may “better support co-administration of COVID-19 and flu vaccine and facilitate the potential introduction of any future combined vaccine or mRNA flu vaccine”, it said.


And NHSE added that it “[expects] COVID-19 vaccines to become available privately for purchase in due course, subject to manufacturer and provider decision”, as the government has “begun to facilitate conversations between manufacturers and providers to support this”.



Better “visibility”



According to the strategy, NHSE will work with community pharmacies and general practices to “test the further extension of the existing online booking” system used for COVID-19 vaccinations.


It said that this will “help people find appointments for vaccinations”.


Read more: MPs call for greater pharmacy role in vaccine delivery amid uptake concerns


The strategy also laid out plans to change the IT systems used by GPs to “improve the visibility of vaccinations” provided by community pharmacy, among other vaccine providers, in 2024/25.


This will also “help ensure a consistent view of an individual’s vaccination status”, it said.



"New opportunities”



Alastair Buxton, CPE director of NHS services, said that the strategy “provides new opportunities for community pharmacy”.


Mr Buxton said that the sector could “expand its role in a wider range of vaccination programmes”.


Read more: Pharmacies should do 'a lot more' vaccinations, says shadow health sec


He added that CPE will work with local pharmaceutical committees (LPCs) to “ensure those opportunities can be seized at a local level”.


“Many” of the proposals are “aligned” with suggestions made by CPE in a consultation response on vaccination services, he said.


"Natural home for all vaccinations”



Responding to the strategy, Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) chief executive Malcolm Harrison said it is “increasingly clear” that community pharmacies “can be the natural home for all vaccinations”.


Mr Harrison said that the CCA would be working with NHSE and “system partners” to roll out the “long-awaited” strategy.


He added that CCA research suggested earlier this year that 10 million more vaccinations could be managed by pharmacies each year.


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


It comes as C+D last week reported on a vaccination outreach programme run by Sheffield’s Wicker Pharmacy, which has helped 55 individuals protect themselves from COVID-19 and influenza so far this year.

In July, the parliamentary health and social care committee (HSCC) said that it believes pharmacists should provide an expanded role in the delivery of vaccinations.

Earlier this year, Labour’s shadow health secretary Wes Streeting also said that he believes pharmacies should be responsible for doing "a lot more vaccination".


And last year, a think tank said that community pharmacy should be commissioned to deliver all adult vaccinations through National Enhanced Services.


Sector leaders have also called for decision makers to broaden the range of vaccination services offered via pharmacies.

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