NHS England faced criticism from C+D readers last flu season after publishing the documents two weeks after the scheduled launch date. Readers branded an earlier release of the documents as the one factor that would most improve the service.
As pharmacists prepare for the service for a second year, NHS England could still not tell C+D when the updated service specification and patient group direction (PGD) would be published.
The commissioning body told C+D that documentation relating to the flu service “requires collaboration with other agencies" and said it is working with them "to ensure timely publication".
"Nothing has been learned"
Kent contractor Amish Patel suggested that “obviously nothing [has been] learned from last year”.
“We have other things to get on with and don’t need the stress of having to do things last minute,” he told C+D.
He added that due to the time of year, pharmacists and staff are on holiday, so coordinating training becomes difficult. “It’s all about being able to plan,” he said.
“Start preparing now”
But Pharmacy London chief executive Rekha Shah said contractors can start preparing for the flu service without the paperwork, because “we know what we have to do”.
“We are in a much better place than last year,” Ms Shah said. “I think this is progress, despite the fact it isn’t ideal.”
Ms Shah stressed that even if pharmacists don’t get the final documents until the end of August, some flu vaccines are not supplied to pharmacies until September 12.
“It might not seem like it to people on the ground, [but] they will reflect back [and see] we have more information than last year,” she added.
Information about the flu service on the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) website confirmed that the service specification and the PGD are yet to be published by NHS England. But it stressed the service would “remain similar” to the 2015-16 scheme.
The negotiator added that contractors need to have the necessary documentation "as soon as possible".