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Pharmacies can halt other services for flu and COVID-19 vaccinations

The new regulations reflect both the pandemic and previously planned changes

New NHS regulations allow contractors to halt other services to “prioritise the administration” of flu and COVID-19 vaccinations in an emergency, PSNC has said.

Under the “flexible provision of flu and coronavirus vaccination or immunisation services during a pandemic”, pharmacies will be able to halt other services to concentrate on these vaccination schemes as part of new NHS regulations that were laid before parliament on Monday (October 19), the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) announced yesterday (October 20).

Most of the changes to the regulations – which introduce amendments to the terms of service for community pharmacy contractors – were previously agreed as part of the five-year Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework (CPCF). However some “relate to the ongoing” COVID-19 pandemic, the negotiator said in a statement today

Pharmacy contractors are now able to limit or stop other pharmaceutical services at “specified times during core or supplementary opening hours” to focus on providing flu or COVID-19 vaccinations. 

PSNC indicated in August that an amendment could be on its way. Announcing the service specifications for this year's flu vaccination programme on August 28, the negotiator said it had asked the Department of Health and Social Care if regulations could be changed to allow pharmacies to “focus solely on the provision of flu vaccinations during a proportion of their opening hours”. 

Pandemic treatment protocol introduced 

Other changes introduced as a result of COVID-19 include the introduction of a pandemic treatment protocol, which “can be used to allow for the supply of medicines for the prevention or treatment of diseases for a current or anticipated pandemic, such as COVID-19, if and when this is required,” the PSNC said. This will now become part of the essential services dispensing provisions, it added.

Under the new protocol, pharmacists can supply prescription-only medicines without a prescription if these are “used for the prevention or treatment of diseases that are, or in anticipation of them being imminently, pandemic” according to the National Health Service (Charges and Pharmaceutical and Local Pharmaceutical Services) (Amendment) Regulations 2020.

Contractors must also facilitate remote access to their services, “to a reasonable extent”, for patients who do not wish to visit the pharmacy in person. Owing slips may now be in electronic as well as in physical form.

The majority of changes in the regulations were planned to go ahead in July this year as part of the five-year funding contract announced in July 2019, but were delayed due to the pandemic.

Examples include the introduction of the Discharge Medicines Service, which will come into effect in January 2021, and the need for all pharmacies to meet the healthy living pharmacy level one requirements. However, compliance with some of these requirements is being delayed until April 1,2021.

What do you make of the new regulations?

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I'm actually surprised that the Paramedics have not been called up to start vaccinating everyone they see as well. That's a lot of people who know how to give injections.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

Owing slips may now be in electronic as well as in physical form.

It's like they don't realise that is how an owing slip is generated in the first place...?

Chris Locum, Locum pharmacist

I have to say it - this is profoundly unethical.

We are not facing the death of the human race here. There was an outbreak of swine flu ( in 1976 I think it was) amongst soldiers in the USA. One of them died, and it appeared to be spreading rapidly amongst the others at the base. The president was advised it was a pandemic.

There was a forced vaccination campaign (which was eventually challenged in the courts and overturned) and something like 30 died AND MANY OTHERS WERE LEFT WITH PERMANENT PARALYSIS.

The curative action was worse than the 'outbreak'. We are not dealing with the plague. We are not dealing with avian flu (kill rate ~60%).

As others point out, work put to one side still has to be done if there will be any staff still standing from the stress of the last several months. Why would we be administering an untested vaccine when the mantra of evidence-based decisions has been bugled in all directions?

Does anyone remember the whole Tamiflu debacle and the dire warning of swine-flu projected deaths (which did not pan out)?

The corona virus has followed the same pattern of infection seen with other similar cold and fu viruses. Rapid penetration, peak and decline. The attempt to combine flu and Covid-19 deaths into one is nothing less than cynical - even sinister politics.

There is no good evidence that lock-downs have a measurable impact in slowing the overall infection rate.

The care home situation was lamentable. However, I am not hopeful we prevent that shambles re-occuring with an obsession of testing. Patients are scared of attending for appointments if they have one to begin with.

We are kicking a can down the road and the economic, physical and mental health of the citizens of the UK. I am not sure how we measure the profound impact and the considerable consequences that will continue long after it is all over.


Locum Pharmacist , Locum pharmacist

This is absolutely ridiculous. As pharmacists we are here to supply patients with their medication and provide expert advice regarding this. We are not here to mass vaccinate the population especially with a potential covid 19 vaccine which will have barely any clinical trials to it, having no idea what long term or even short term consequences and knowing that their is no liability being taken by the drug companies producing it should a patient suffer vaccine damage. Has the time not come for all pharmacists to unite and say, ' no', we do not want to be part of this.

M. Rx(n), Student

Replying to: Locum Pharmacist.

It is understandable that in a pandemic the government can commandeer Pharmacies for public health purposes.

The problem is, it shouldn't be at the expense of the Pharmacist's core training and duty/role.

If anything the Pharmacist's open-access door is even more crucial in health emergencies. So why not pay for more Pharmacists to carry the added load?

As I said before, we are caught in negotiations exclusively between business executives.

Kevin Western, Community pharmacist

The obvious problem, is that "halting other services" , simply means they still all have to be done, but now in less time, with the same ( if you are lucky), staff.
As others have said, if we are that desperate, use another Pharmacist! Pull the Clinical Pharmacists out of the closed Surgeries and give them something to do.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Just glad I'll be out before this happens.

M. Rx(n), Student

I'm looking at the EHC from an ethical point of view -- especially during a pandemic where our more esteemed colleagues in surgeries have their shutters down. The problem seems to be that the paymasters don't leave any room for the RP"s discretion. Pharmacists have become functional drones in business executives' negotiations.

As to cost re: additional Pharmacist, the government picks up the cost based on demand at a given Pharmacy.

In fact, it would have worked as it stands at the moment had the government structurred the payment to include additional Pharmacist cover.

Dave Downham, Manager

Need to get hold of some vaccines first...

Joan Richardson, Locum pharmacist

Too right!  As yet we still don't know if, or when, we will have access to the magic pot of flu vaccines stashed away by the DOH whereas the GP's have already been given a date to access said magic pot!


M. Rx(n), Student

well-intentioned but tricky.

Can the RP (NOT THE CONTRACTOR) refuse an emergency supply or EHC consultation by saying they are only focused on flu jabs?

Why not just budget for an additional Pharmacist solely for that purpose based on demand at any given Pharmacy? Could be once a week, twice a week etc

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

We can always refuse an emergency supply or EHC consultation because neither are essential services - the question is can we refuse to dispense prescriptions for part on the day (I say 'we' - I mean 'you') while the vaccinations are being done?

Oh, an additional pharmacist costs that all important commodity - money. That's why it won't happen because that would have to come directly out of the corporate profits and the markets and shareholders wouldn't like that!

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