An NHS England area team has defended its decision to restrict pharmacy flu vaccinations against criticism from Numark.
Numark said NHS England North Midlands' decision to commission pharmacies to vaccinate only at-risk patients under 65 this winter was reducing “access and awareness” of flu jabs. The independent pharmacies support group was “very concerned” that this was a result of commissioners “bowing to pressure from GPs”, said director of pharmacy services Mimi Lau.
But the commissioning body told C+D it had “considered all information” submitted by Public Health England, local medical committees and LPCs in the area when it reviewed its flu immunisation arrangements. “Uptake for at-risk under-65s is well below recommended levels, which is why this group is being targeted,” a spokesperson said on Wednesday (May 6).
Ms Lau said she had heard “rumours” that other area teams were following NHS England North Midlands’ example.
Government figures showed 50 per cent of at-risk patients under 65 were vaccinated last flu season. The figure was 73 per cent for over-65s, and Ms Lau stressed that it was "not practical" for all of these patients to visit a GP for their flu jabs.
“As ever, GP surgeries have picked off the cases [that are] easiest to meet their targets [while] pharmacy has the crumbs,” she added.
NHS England North Midlands is comprised of the two former area teams for Shropshire and Staffordshire, and Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire. Pharmacists in the former area were able to vaccinate patients over 65 last year, but NHS North Midlands told C+D it had decided to implement the Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire model across the whole region this year.
NHS England North Midlands added that it was currently working on further flu initiatives, “particularly to increase immunisation rates for pregnant women”.
Last month, C+D reported that London pharmacists were unsure whether they would be commissioned to deliver the Fluenz nasal vaccine to children this winter.