“Pharmacy is proving itself with the national flu service,” the NPA said in response to the record number of vaccinations delivered this season.
Broadening the range of vaccination services available in community pharmacy – to cover shingles and others – is “a current matter of discussion with the NPA board”, it confirmed to C+D today (March 2).
Pharmacy blamed for shingles vaccination decline
The pharmacy flu service was cited as a contributory factor to the decline in shingles vaccination uptake, in a Public Health England (PHE) report published in January.
The report suggested that because patients were choosing to go to "pharmacies or other providers" for their flu vaccination, rather than their GP practice, GPs were not able to identify who was eligible for a shingles jab.
In response to C+D's coverage of the pharmacy flu service, readers said the “obvious answer” to improve uptake of shingles vaccinations would be to commission pharmacies to provide them as well.
NHS England did not confirm if it would consider commissioning a pharmacy shingles vaccination service when asked by C+D.
"We commission general practice to provide this service to eligible patients and work to ensure as many patients as possible take up this opportunity," a spokesperson said.
Because GPs hold the patient's record, they are "well placed" to assess a patient’s suitability for the shingles vaccine, the commissioner added.
When C+D asked PHE the same question, the organisation responded that it needs “the support of all health professionals" to tackle shingles.
“We are considering a range of possible approaches to simplify the programme and its eligibility criteria," it added on Monday (February 27).
Under the current pharmacy flu specification guidelines, patients who are eligible for other vaccinations should be referred to their GP practice.
Pharmacists can administer "other vaccinations", for example the pneumonia vaccine, if locally contracted to do so, the guidelines state.