Additional stock allocations of the flu jabs for community pharmacies “will be available to purchase via wholesalers” in the “usual way”, the DH said in guidance for community pharmacies in England on the provision of the 2020/21 NHS flu vaccination programme.
The guidance, released yesterday (November 2), outlined that stock will be available to order from this month.
The process has been designed to “limit the impact on business as usual vaccinations and supply chains”, the DH explained.
Additional vaccines must initially only be used to vaccinate those who fall into group A, which includes "patients and frontline social care workers... and frontline health and social care workers through occupational health schemes", the DH said.
Later in the season, the programme will open up for 50-64-year-olds, and after that any extra stock may be used for others, including private patients, if the DH notifies pharmacies that this is “permissible”.
Self-certification to wholesalers
Pharmacies will be “required by wholesalers to sign a self-certification declaration before they can access additional stock”, the DH said.
They may be required to self-certify that they have “allocated all of the locally procured flu vaccines and any additional flu vaccines” previously ordered, including any vaccines yet to be delivered, for the group that they require additional vaccines for, according to the guidance.
Pharmacies could also be asked to confirm that they will not return any of their local stock order for those cohorts to suppliers, as additional stock is “only to be used after all of your local stock for a particular cohort has been exhausted”, the DH said.
Pharmacies might additionally be asked to confirm that they will only use additional stock to vaccinate eligible patients, and they will not be able to return additional stock to wholesalers.
Reimbursement "the usual way"
Contractors should “submit claims for eligible vaccinations administered in the usual way,” and are advised to keep “appropriate records” to support their claims, according to the guidance. Any pharmacies found to have used additional vaccine stock “outside [the outlined] conditions or claimed inappropriately” may be subject to “further action”, the DH warned.
Deliveries will begin this month and stock will be phased to wholesalers throughout the season.
“Wholesalers will alert community pharmacies on when stock is available to order, and will advise on delivery times, ordering limits and pricing information,” the DH added.
“Concerned about the time it has taken"
Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee director of NHS services Alastair Buxton said yesterday that the organisation was “pleased” that the DH had released information on how pharmacies can access the additional stock for the 2020/21 flu season.
However, “it is regrettable that [the] DH took much longer than expected to publish the details”, Mr Buxton added, a view that was echoed by other industry organisations.
Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies CEO Leyla Hannbeck told C+D today (November 3) that: “Our members have been going above and beyond providing this valuable service to patients and we welcome that this guidance has been published but are concerned about the time it has taken to communicate the specifics.
Such delays in communication put unnecessary stress on community pharmacy teams as we move into another lockdown and the very busy December period. The cost with a no-returns policy will put financial strain on our members, many of whom are already struggling,” she said.
"Frustrating that it has taken this long”
Royal Pharmaceutical Society English board chair Professor Claire Anderson said that “while it’s welcome that this guidance on flu vaccination stocks is now available for community pharmacists in England, it’s frustrating that it has taken this long”.
If the sector is “to support collaborative working with healthcare professionals to deliver this ambitious programme, pharmacists need to be included in guidance early alongside others”, she added.
National Pharmacy Association policy manager Helga Mangion told C+D toady that: “It is good that there’s now more clarity on this matter. Pharmacies have got off to a flying start with flu vaccinations this year and it’s important that the momentum isn’t lost.”