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Award-winning pharmacy to give COVID-19 vax, after initial rejection

Olutayo Arikawe outside Priory Community Pharmacy
Olutayo Arikawe outside Priory Community Pharmacy

A West Midlands pharmacy has welcomed approval as a COVID-19 vaccination site as “happy” news, following an initial rejection by NHSE&I.

Olutayo Arikawe, superintendent pharmacist at Priory Community Pharmacy in Dudley in the West Midlands, told C+D yesterday (January 25) that she was “happy for my patients and happy for my community” after the business received approval to administer the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine.

In an article published by the New Statesman earlier this month (January 15), Ms Arikawe said she believed the reason Priory Community Pharmacy – which won Pharmacy Team of the Year at the C+D Awards 2018 – was initially rejected as a vaccination site by NHS England & NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) was a need for “more manpower”.

However, when speaking to C+D last week (January 18) – prior to the approval of the site by NHSE&I on January 22 – Ms Arikawe said the pharmacy was aware that “the number of staff that we’ve got will not be able to do it” and that they would “recruit more people from the pharmacy community, mainly locum pharmacists who are already accredited [to vaccinate]”.

She added that she was confident the pharmacy would be able to administer the 1,000 jabs a week required by the government from the site, which will operate not from the business’ premises, but from the nearby St Francis Church.

NHSE&I was approached by C+D for comment.

“I shouldn’t need to be fighting for it”

Following approval of the site, which does not yet have a go-live date, Ms Arikawe said it was “great for them [NHSE&I] to recognise us”, adding that she felt the commissioner had been “thorough” in ensuring the site was suitable, and that “everything was in place to properly to support the patients”.

However, she emphasised that pharmacies are still in a position where they “need to be telling NHS[E&I] that we can help”.

“They should know that we’ve been there to help, that we’ve been open all through the pandemic, and we’re still helping,” Ms Arikawe said. “When they think about the NHS family, pharmacy should be one of the first they think about. I shouldn’t need to be fighting for it.”

Ms Arikawe – who won an NHS Parliamentary Award in 2019 and the one-off Best of the Best Award at the C+D Awards 2017 – explained that she had originally gone to the press to advocate not just for her pharmacy, but for the whole sector to be more involved in the COVID-19 vaccination effort.

“I want to take care of my community, and I know my community,” she said, adding that there had been a high rate of COVID-19 cases in the Dudley area, and explaining that many of her patients have mobility issues that could make it difficult to get to a mass vaccination centre.

“I can get them protected, and make it accessible for them – make it easy for them,” she added. This may mean patients won’t be “changing their mind because they have to go to somewhere very far [away] or somewhere where they have to wait in line to be vaccinated”, Ms Arikawe said.

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