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Pharmacies set to nab £2.50 fee uplift for ‘potential’ spring COVID-19 boosters

A possible COVID-19 spring booster campaign would see pharmacies paid an additional £2.50 per jab, NHS England (NHSE) has announced.

Pharmacy contractors stand to get an additional £2.50 for each COVID-19 vaccination they deliver in a potential spring booster programme, NHSE last week (January 31) revealed.

According to a statement from Community Pharmacy England (CPE) issued on Friday (February 2), the uplift came as a result of the negotiator’s “arguments on funding”.

Read more: UK’s first private pharmacy COVID-19 vaccine service launched today

CPE said that NHSE has asked pharmacies currently providing the COVID-19 vaccination service if they wish to extend their current contract for the service until August 31 2024. 

Pharmacies have until February 22 to inform local commissioners of their intention to provide the extended vaccination service, which would run from March 31 until the end of August, it added.

CPE said that the extension is in anticipation of a “potential spring booster programme”, which may “soon” be advised by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

 

Fee uplift

 

According to NHSE’s updated service specification, pharmacy contractors will receive an additional £2.50 for each patient given a COVID-19 jab from April 1 where a spring booster campaign is in place but a “seasonal influenza vaccination is not announced”.

This is in addition to the current item of service (IoS) payment of £7.54 per vaccination and £10 per administration to housebound patients, it said.

Contractors cannot claim “more than one payment for each eligible patient”, according to the document.

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

The pharmacy negotiator said that the “additional payment is to recognise that a spring booster programme is unable to benefit from cost efficiencies linked to co-administration of COVID-19 and flu vaccines, which was part of NHSE’s original rationale for the reduction in the fees they imposed last year”.

CPE director of NHS services Alastair Buxton said that the uplift was “welcome” but stressed that the negotiator believes that “baseline funding” for the service remains inadequate as it does not address “inflationary increases” or rising labour costs.

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

In August, pharmacy bodies slammed the news that NHSE would reduce the fee paid to community pharmacies for COVID-19 vaccinations by 25% from £10 to £7.54.

But at the end of the month, NHSE announced that additional payments would be available for pharmacies administering COVID-19 vaccinations in September and October.

 

COVID-19 continues

 

Last week, C+D revealed that pharmacies can sign up to offer the UK’s “first” private COVID-19 vaccination service.

And in December, the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) announced that it was scrutinising “outlier” community pharmacies that had submitted “an unexpectedly high volume of claims over the first few weeks” of the lateral flow devices (LFD) test service.

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

The same month, NHSE’s new vaccination strategy revealed that community pharmacy could have “a greater role in seasonal vaccination” in the future.

And in September, NHSE told C+D that 3,267 community pharmacy sites had been designated for the autumn/winter COVID-19 vaccination campaign, almost double the number of the previous season.

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