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National flu service ‘on track’ to launch next week

PSNC is hoping this year's flu service will not be delayed

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) is confident that this year’s flu service is “on track” to begin next week, as NHS England publishes long-awaited paperwork.

NHS England revealed the service specification and patient group direction (PGD) yesterday (August 23), but PSNC warned that this is not the green light for pharmacists to begin rolling out the 2016-17 flu service.

Contractors would not be able to begin vaccinating patients until the pharmaceutical services directions – the documents that provide the legal basis for the service – are in place, a spokesperson for PSNC said.

While these documents have to be updated before pharmacists can start rolling out the service, this should not take long, the spokesperson added: “The directions are very closely related to the service specification and the PGD, so they are pretty much being drawn up alongside each other.”

“As far as we’re concerned, we’re on track for September 1 roll out,” the spokesperson told C+D yesterday.

Last year’s service was delayed because the documents were not published until September 16. The publication of the documents on schedule this year means PSNC is “obviously we’re hoping we’re not delayed." "But you never know, things do happen," it added. 

Changes to the service

This year's service has been commissioned for a month longer than last year's, and will run from September 1 to March 31. A separate PGD has also been published that is specific to community pharmacists, and patient surveys will now be submitted and collated electronically.

As well as waiting for the legal sign off from the Department of Health, contractors are required to notify NHS England of their intention to provide the service through a portal on the NHS Business Services Authority website. This portal will be available “shortly”, PSNC said.

Alastair Buxton, director of NHS Services at PSNC, said the publication of the service specification and the PGD would help pharmacy teams "finalise preparations for the launch" next week.

"We expect the outstanding regulatory matter to be confirmed later this week and hope community pharmacies will be in a position to begin vaccinating patients from September 1," Mr Buxton said.

Pharmacists achieved almost 600,000 vaccinations last flu season, and the negotiator added that it hopes the sector can “improve on that this year”.

Find out how one pharmacy managed over 1,000 flu jabs last winter here



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