Pharmacy bodies, NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) and the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) “have agreed to work together on plans to ensure that community pharmacies are used to maximum effect in the COVID-19 vaccination programme”, PSNC said yesterday (January 10).
This follows urgent calls from the sector for pharmacy to have a greater role in the national vaccination programme.
Although a “limited number” of pharmacies have already been approved as suitable vaccination sites, PSNC said “not every pharmacy” will be able to start vaccinating immediately, or be involved in the service at all, due to “considerable additional complexities with COVID-19 vaccinations”.
The pharmacy bodies and NHSE&I will now “scop[e] what is feasible for the sector…and look at timings and the numbers of pharmacies likely to be involved”.
“This will allow pharmacies to begin vaccinating as soon as the time is right for them to contribute to the national effort,” PSNC explained in the update.
“Vaccines delivery plan”
The DH has this afternoon (January 11) published its 'vaccine delivery plan', which sets out how it plans to vaccinate "tens of millions of people by spring", via more than "2,700 vaccine sites across the UK".
It covers how the government envisages community pharmacy will be involved in the national vaccination efforts, but does not go as far as to say a national pharmacy service will be commissioned.
Dr Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp), told C+D that NHSE&I is “warm to receiving support” from the sector, and AIMp and the rest of the pharmacy bodies are now drawing up plans to get more community pharmacies involved.
“The introduction of Oxford/Astrazenca vaccine and its parallels with the flu vaccine has equipped all of us to visualise a more ambitious, even game-changing, role for community pharmacies in the government’s pledge to vaccinate at pace.
“We are not only a trained, competent and regulated workforce of pharmacy teams, but [have] the ability to deliver at scale,” she stressed. “Community pharmacy is made for this moment and AIMp will be doing everything in its power to help make this ideal resource of the pharmacy network a reality for all.”
Will pharmacy’s barriers be removed?
Last week, C+D launched a petition and sent an open letter to the head of NHSE&I, Simon Stevens, calling for the removal of some of the barriers preventing pharmacy teams across the country from getting involved in the national vaccination service. The petition has already garnered more than 2,900 signatures.
When asked by C+D this morning whether NHSE&I was now considering scrapping the requirement for pharmacies to vaccinate 1,000 people a week and whether it would consider commissioning a national pharmacy vaccination service, NHSE&I said it had nothing further to add to PSNC’s statement.
Sign the petition to allow all community pharmacies in England to offer COVID-19 vaccinations here