NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) will commission a small number of pharmacy contractors to deliver the COVID-19 vaccination programme as a local enhanced service (LES), it said in a letter to contractors last week (November 27).
The selected pharmacy-led sites will need to comply with a list of requirements, which NHSE&I said it does not “expect the majority of contractors sites will be able to meet”.
NHSE&I regional teams will select suitable pharmacy sites, following a designation process. Those successful will be required to administer “a minimum of 1,000 doses of vaccine over a seven-day period from each designated site” from “late December or early January”, but the exact date will depend on vaccine availability.
A final LES agreement will be published “as soon as details are clear”, NHSE&I said in the letter – which was signed by NHS chief commercial officer and senior responsible owner for the vaccine programme Emily Lawson, director of primary care Ed Waller and chief pharmaceutical officer for England Dr Keith Ridge.
Contractors delivering the LES will need to ensure they meet “core site and workforce requirements”.
These include ensuring their sites can offer the service seven days a week, from 8am to 8pm – potentially including bank holidays – and that they have enough clinical capacity.
They also need to be able to maintain “appropriate provision of pharmaceutical services from the premises”, in addition to administering the COVID-19 vaccinations.
£12.58 per vaccination
Contractors will coordinate the LES “at scale”, collaborating with commissioners and local providers.
Personal protective equipment, vaccines, and consumables will be provided centrally, and contractors will be told how to access these “shortly”, according to the letter.
Patients are likely to need two doses of COVID-19 vaccination. The spacing of these is to be confirmed by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, but contractors should assume that “two doses of COVID-19 vaccinations will need to be administered to each patient, three-five weeks apart”, the letter said.
Patients will be able to book their vaccinations at a primary care network general practice site or use the national booking service to have the vaccine at a “community pharmacy designated site, other local vaccination service or vaccination centre”.
Participating pharmacies will be paid £12.58 per vaccination, £25.16 if the vaccination requires two doses. The arrangements that were introduced earlier this year to support pharmacy contractors delivering the national flu service – such as a fund for “additional venue hire” – will be “extended to support the COVID vaccination programme”, according to the national commissioner.
NHSE&I regional teams will decide with local pharmaceutical committees (LPCs) whether a LES is needed to “maximise system capacity”, Dr Ridge, Ms Lawson and Mr Waller said in the letter.
Contractors who believe they can meet the LES requirements should share the details of their site with the relevant NHSE&I regional team by 4pm on December 6, by completing section one of the specified designation form.
NHSE&I will review the forms and ask contractors whose submission meets the requirements, expected to be only a selected number, to supply additional details proving how they can comply with the LES requirements by 4pm on December 11. Those who successfully pass the selection process will be notified by December 18, NHSE&I said.
Contractors will need to ensure staff who are participating in the COVID-19 programme are appropriately trained.
AIMp: Welcomes “clarity” on pharmacy involvement
Commenting on the NHSE&I announcement, Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies CEO Leyla Hannbeck told C+D yesterday (November 29) that the organisation welcomes “the clarity that this letter brings”.
“Our members want to be involved, wherever we can be, in delivering vaccines. It is good to see that NHSE&I have provided the information we have been waiting for to review the resources we have nationwide and decide how we can bring them to help the NHS defeat this virus,” Ms Hannbeck added.