Community pharmacies can help the government meet its flu vaccination targets for 2015-16, Pharmacy Voice has stressed.
The sector was “perfectly placed” to help vaccinate a higher proportion of at-risk groups - an aim set out in the government's annual flu plan for 2015-16 - Pharmacy Voice chief executive Rob Darracott said last week (April 1).
The government plan, published on March 27, especially stressed the need to improve uptake among people aged under 65 in clinical at-risk groups. Only half of this group had been vaccinated for “a number of years” despite “continued efforts” to reach them, the plan said, and it set a target of increasing this figure to 75 per cent.
Mr Darracott urged commissioners to use pharmacy flu vaccinations to target hard-to-reach patients. People with long-term conditions regularly visited their pharmacy, where they could be reminded of the vaccination’s importance, he pointed out.
Elizabeth Wade, director of policy at Pharmacy Voice, also stressed that offering flu vaccinations as standard in community pharmacies could boost uptake. Ms Wade said that it was “obvious” that uptake would increase if more providers were commissioned to provide vaccinations, but highlighted that pharmacy had unique benefits.
“Community pharmacies can play a big role in increasing convenience and availability,” she told C+D. “If you have more standardised and universal commissioning of community pharmacies to deliver the vaccine, then anyone at risk knows they can access it without having to get a GP appointment.”
“High-risk people are more likely to visit pharmacies anyway. But quite often they are not aware they are at higher risk from flu or that they are eligible for a free vaccination. Pharmacists have more time to discuss those types of things,” she said.
Data collected by Pharmacy Voice showed that close to half a million flu vaccines were delivered to patients by 3,000 of its member pharmacies this winter.
Pharmacies in London noted a particular success in flu vaccination delivery. Chelsea and Westminster LPC reported that community pharmacies in London had exceeded their target of carrying out 4 per cent percent of the vaccinations for the area – instead representing more than 6 per cent of the total amount.
“I was shocked at how well we did,” said the LPC’s chief executive Rekha Shah. “More and more pharmacists are signing up to provide the service and as they get more familiar with it the figures can only improve,” she said.