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BMA rep: GPs sceptical of flu service until jab rates rise

Government statistics show vaccination rates for at-risk patients have dropped this year

Surgeries remain concerned pharmacists are "fishing in the same pool" of flu patients, says the BMA's Dr Richard Vautrey


GPs will remain sceptical about the pharmacy flu service until it is shown to increase vaccine uptake, a senior doctor has said.

The first national pharmacy flu service finished on Tuesday (March 1), with the latest figures showing vaccination rates for at-risk patients have dropped in comparison to last year.

Data from Public Health England (PHE) revealed that the proportion of over-65s vaccinated by the end of January fell from 72.5% last flu season to 71% in 2015-16.

The vaccination rate also dropped from 50% to 45% among under-65s in clinical risk groups, while coverage for pregnant women fell by 1.6%.

GPs want a "demonstrable increase"

Dr Richard Vautrey, deputy chair of the British Medical Association's (BMA) GP committee, told C+D that doctors will remain worried about the pharmacy flu service until they see a "demonstrable increase in overall uptake".

"Until we see that, practices will be concerned that all that's happening is [GPs and pharmacists are] fishing in the same pond," he said. 

Pharmacists needed to focus on vaccinating patients that will not visit a local GP practice, Dr Vautrey stressed.

"There's large numbers of patients who don't get immunised at all. It's those people [pharmacists] should really be trying to reach, rather than focussing on patients who would be vaccinated anyway," he said.

Dr Vautrey said "mixed messages" about where patients should have received their vaccination may have influenced rates "to some extent". But the "bigger issue" is that patients perceived the vaccine to be ineffective last year, he said.

Pharmacy service an "excuse" for patients not to get vaccinated

Dr Bill Beeby, deputy chair of the BMA's clinical and prescribing subcommittee, told C+D that patients had used the pharmacy service as an "excuse" not to get vaccinated at a GP practice.

"They say, 'I'm going to have it done at my pharmacy', and they just slip through our fingers," he said.

"They don't go to the pharmacy. The pharmacy doesn't have the responsibility to chase them up – we're chasing them up," he said.

Dr Beeby stressed he has no issue with pharmacists vaccinating patients, but labelled this year's service "uncoordinated", with pharmacies vaccinating patients "almost at random".

"It means the coordination we've had by doing it through practices has been destroyed," he told C+D.

The pharmacy flu service was plagued by local GP opposition last year, and Dr Beeby said GPs found it hard to build relationships with large multiples.

"Independent pharmacies have an interest in the local community, but all too often we're [dealing with] large chains. The local managers are sometimes transient, so it's always going to be difficult to build working relationships with them," he added.


More news on flu...

Revealed: GPs discourage public from using pharmacy flu jabs

GP leaders: Pharmacy flu jabs will fail to boost uptake

2015-16 funding settlement: National flu service announced


Do you think the first national pharmacy flu service was a success?

We want to hear your views, but please express them in the spirit of a constructive, professional debate. For more information about what this means, please click here to see our community principles and information



Sam Akram, Pharmacist

If pharmacists did them for free, like most things, nobody would complain about fishing in the same pond.

Stephen Eggleston, Community pharmacist

GP want us to vaccinate the hard to reach - by definition giving themselves the easy targets. If a patient uses anything as an excuse not to be vaccinated, that is their choice - to vaccinate against the will of a patient is, I believe, assault. One more thing - in December 2014, didn't some bright spark from PHE announce that the flu jab for that year was practically ineffective. Did they not think that would have an impact on this year's uptake? If you ask me, the fact that overall figures only dripped by 1% or so is down to Pharmacy getting to all those extra patients, otherwise the drop would have been a good deal more significant and GPs would be getting a roasting over their inability to deliver the service. Instead, they choose to try to divert attention away from themselves by making as much noise as possible about what Pharmacists care doing

thepharmacist Forever!, Pharmacist Director

I thought community pharmacy vaccinated over 500,000 patients, with less than 3 weeks notice before the start of the service, perhaps what needs to be said, if community pharmacy was given notice now of a confirmed flu service latter this year, then the uptake would be significantly greater.


Shaun Steren, Pharmaceutical Adviser

"Independent pharmacies have an interest in the local community, but all too often we're [dealing with] large chains. The local managers are sometimes transient, so it's always going to be difficult to build working relationships with them,"  Most important comment made. As usual market share is what gets commented on. The conflict could be mitigated by better working relationships between employee pharmacists and the local GPs. Of course we would have to get into the reasons behind high turnover of pharmacist managers and the appalling working conditions they must endure. Maybe GPs don't understand, but many, if not most employee pharmacists, would jump at the chance of ditching their connection to community pharmacy and instead become a part of the GP surgery team. Employee pharmacists are as ashamed of this corporate 'profession' as GPs are annoyed by it. 




Aryan Butt,

We often hear that GP's are overworked etc


Perhaps they should stop fishing and let pharmacies and pharmacists get on with fishing in peace





SydBashford Sold&Retired&DeRegistered, Community pharmacist

...also I wonder if we are going to see the same increase in vaccination fees that the GP's have secured ?

Dave Downham, Manager

It's in the same memo as our 1% pay increase, I do believe. 

SydBashford Sold&Retired&DeRegistered, Community pharmacist

So what if we are fishing from the same pool with no increase in upotake? Patient choice/convenience has been the BIG gain !


A Hussain, Senior Management

GP's will never be happy and we just have to live with that.  If they think that I'm going to shun the many 'easy' patients that voluntarily turn up at my shop as my service is much more convenient, then they are deluded.  Do they think that homeless diabetics just walk in begging to be vaccinated?  We can only advertise the service and target patients that our records show are eligible.  Our hands are tied.

GARY BROWN, Community pharmacist

Good points, well made sir/madam!

Harry Tolly, Pharmacist

"Independent pharmacies have an interest in the local community, but all too often we're [dealing with] large chains. The local managers are sometimes transient, so it's always going to be difficult to build working relationships with them," he added.



And the idiot Ridge wants to close 3000 of these Independents !

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