England’s national pharmacy flu vaccination service will confuse “vulnerable” patients, increase GP workload and fail to boost vaccine uptake among at-risk patients, GP representatives have said.
Both the British Medical Association (BMA) and the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) criticised the advanced service announced in the 2015-16 pharmacy funding settlement, saying it would “undermine” GPs and leave practices with vaccines that had been “paid for but cannot be administered”.
Chair of the BMA’s GP committee Chaand Nagpaul lamented the lack of “proper planning” around the service, which had been announced at a “late stage”.
Although GPs worked “constructively” with community pharmacists, he said introducing the service without “ironing out the logistics” could create tension between the two professions.
“It will increase workload and could undermine the targeted population approach that practices currently undertake,” he said. A lack of “seamless” data transfer between pharmacies and GPs could also leave practices in the dark over which patients had been vaccinated, Dr Nagpaul added.
Deputy chair of the BMA’s clinical and prescribing committee Bill Beeby pointed out that practices would have to ensure pharmacy vaccinations were entered onto their own systems, which would create additional work.
GPs may refuse to buy extra vaccine stock next year in protest against the pharmacy service, he warned.
“I think GPs are going to be genuinely frustrated that somebody else gets paid for delivering the vaccine [while] they get paid nothing for doing all the legwork.
“I am not against pharmacists delivering flu vaccines, but the risk is pharmacies will pick up patients who are easy, but have no responsibility whatsoever for chasing the difficult ones,” Dr Beeby told C+D.
"Number of drawbacks"
RCGP chair Maureen Baker said there were a “number of drawbacks” to the new service, including that GPs could be left with unused vaccines.
“[The service] could lead to potential confusion among vulnerable patients and cause unnecessary strain on practice staff, who are already facing intense workload pressures,” she said.
When announcing the new flu service, PSNC warned it could cause “tension” between GPs and pharmacists.
GP support was “encouraged” but “not necessary” for the success of the service, it said – however, pharmacists would need to report the vaccination to the patient’s practice.
PSNC told C+D it would engage with GPs at this year’s RCGP conference, which “may provide an opportunity to talk to them about the service”. It is also due to discuss the flu vaccination scheme at a meeting between itself, NHS Employers and the BMA’s GP committee.