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Hancock: This year’s flu vaccine programme to be ‘biggest in history’

Hancock: Pharmacies will have an “important role to play” in the flu vaccination programme rollout
Hancock: Pharmacies will have an “important role to play” in the flu vaccination programme rollout

The government wants this year’s flu vaccination programme to be the “biggest in history”, with pharmacies playing an “important role”, health secretary Matt Hancock has said.

The government is “planning in detail for winter” and expects high demand for NHS services, Mr Hancock said during his keynote address at the annual National Pharmacy Association (NPA) conference – this year held virtually – today (July 13).

In preparation for the coldest months of the year, the government is working on a “combination of the COVID-19 vaccination programme”, should a vaccine be found, and setting out its intention to deliver the “biggest flu vaccine programme in history”, Mr Hancock said.

“We have procured enough vaccines to be able to deliver on that, but it is a big task to get the vaccines into people’s arms. We'll need teamwork across the board to make that happen,” he added.

Pharmacies and vaccines

Community pharmacies in England will have an “important role to play” in the flu vaccination programme rollout, Mr Hancock said. However, he did not at this stage offer details on the sector's role in delivering an eventual COVID-19 vaccine.

He told NPA conference attendees that the government is working on “how a COVID-19 vaccine rollout will work and we’re going to, frankly, use all of the capabilities that are disposable, to deliver the vaccines programmes that we need to in the months ahead”.

In May, NHS England and Improvement sent a letter to contractors, which said that the list of patients eligible to receive the flu jab free of charge could be expanded this year.

The Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) last week published a policy document calling for ‘urgent change’ to the delivery of this season’s flu service, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rollout of clinical services

Some services that pharmacies were expected to start delivering this year under the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework had to be paused due to COVID-19, but that pause "is temporary and for as short a period as possible”, Mr Hancock said.

The government is committed to expanding services that “we agreed to and set out in the framework”, Mr Hancock explained – alluding to the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS).

CPCS referrals from GP practices to community pharmacy, which the contractual framework said could be rolled out nationally “as early as April”, were not extended due to the pandemic.

“I look forward to the rollout of more clinical services, with the goal that all [pharmacists] should operate at the top of their qualification, at the top of their licence, engaging with and supporting the community that we serve to get the very best possible treatment as close to home as possible,” Mr Hancock said.

Responding to a question from an NPA member, he clarified that pharmacies will be paid for any new service they are asked to offer.

“As we offer pharmacies more and more services, we need to make sure of course that we’re paying properly for those services,” he said.

What do you make of Matt Hancock's comments?

Farhat Ahmed, Locum pharmacist

don't worry about GPs, prediction is that they will throw open the doors, hug&kiss the patients to get flu jabs into them and then close the doors again afterwards.


Leon The Apothecary, Student

I was speaking to some of my colleagues about how they were planning to deliver flu jabs, and it's logistically a nightmare. Pre-screening, documentation, donning, injection, cleaning down, doffing all take significant time when added together, and combined with the regular duties of pharmacists in the day-to-day, it is going to be exceedingly tricky to deliver a large number, especially in places that don't have access to ACTs.

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

Leon, it's going to be a bit like Jim Bowen's Bullseye, just throw it from a distance and hope for the best !
"Super, smashing, great", says the patient as they leave the consulting room!

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

If you get two in a bed, does the vaccine fail then?

C A, Community pharmacist

"In May, NHS England and Improvement sent a letter to contractors, which said that the list of patients eligible to receive the flu jab free of charge [is the same as last year but] could be expanded this year."


Still no word on if it is actually being expanded... just that it might be

O J, Community pharmacist

The only way to increase the uptake of flu vaccine this season is to water down the red tap around it for this season.

If the government is really serious then do a mass vaccination programme free of charge.

"Hatefully" Chinese model is a recent example of successful mass vaccination. But ofcourse we only follow the Yankees and wont get anything of that done in this century.
Some old school bureaucrats who are responsible for seasonal flu framework wouldn't have a clue what the chinese did to vaccinate 11 million residents.

Kevin, please stop. Just like every year we will not get the fine details right till the end. So any chance of extra pay is out of the question.

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

Services are being expanded. Wonderful ! Will salaries and locum rates be expanded proportionally. ? Just asking for a mate ?

Meera Sharma, Pharmacy owner/ Proprietor

NPA who???

It has been mentioned many times that pharmacy will be part of the solution so this is not new, but Mr Hancock does not make those important decisions, the treasury does so to those tuning in today, most of whom probably don't work in a pharmacy anyway, I would wait before getting excited. 


Joan Richardson, Locum pharmacist

Interesting that they have "procured enough vaccines to be able to deliver the biggest flu vaccination programme in history" when GSK were warning last week that "demand is  continuing to exceed manufacturing capacity"!  GSK are not the only manufacturer of course but the two  articles don't sit together comfortably.

Also there are the GP surgeries to get on board and they seem very unwilling to come out from behind their screens and actually deal with patients face to face!

Could be a very interesting vaccination season especially if a Covid-19 vaccine also becomes available.

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

Joan, reading today that no vaccine expected until this time next year or 2022. Looks like we're going to have to go down the herd immunity route. Protect yourself if you're old or vulnerable, obviously with government support, and others, especially the under 50s and kids try to get back to some kind of normal life. I really feel for the teachers, in September, coping with kids who have had no structure to their lives, in some cases, for 6 months.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

We have a demand exceeding supply problem every year.

Kevin Western, Community pharmacist

Has he told mr Ridge and the rest of the civil servants responsible, about paying us?

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