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Revealed: GPs discourage public from using pharmacy flu jabs

One practice told C+D it had removed a flu vaccination poster in response to a complaint

Posters in practices, notes on prescriptions, and a mention in a monthly newsletter: C+D reveals the extent of GPs' opposition to the pharmacy flu service

C+D has received more examples of GP surgeries discouraging patients from getting their flu jab at a pharmacy.

In one case, Danetre Medical Practice in Daventry, Northamptonshire, displayed a poster that claimed profits from England's national pharmacy flu service “are not fed back into the NHS”.

“Did you know that free NHS flu jabs are being offered at pharmacies? Did you also know that if you have your vaccination done at a pharmacy, all profits go to that company?" the practice said in the poster, seen by C+D.

Practice manager Jo Gilford told C+D that the poster was taken down “within 24 hours” because of a complaint. The practice then apologised to NHS England – a solution it said the commissioning body was “happy with”.

Vaccines already ordered

Kenneth MacRae Medical Centre in Rainford, St Helens, told patients in its monthly newsletter that it had already ordered vaccines for all patients who received the flu jab there last year.

“Please bear this in mind if visiting pharmacists offering the flu vaccine or we may end up paying for lots of vaccines we cannot use,” it said.

A community pharmacist in the St Helens area told C+D he was “disappointed” with the language used. “It is a shame. We hear lots about how busy GPs are, but when an opportunity comes up to reduce their workload they turn it down,” the pharmacist said.

“If a GP takes the opportunity of a jab to provide extra services [to a patient], then that's great. [But] the newsletter does seem to make patients feel guilty if they use the pharmacy service,” he added.

The Kenneth MacRae Medical Practice declined to comment on the newsletter.

"Difficulties" with patient records

On a repeat prescription from Benfleet Surgery in Essex, seen by C+D, the practice added a note warning that geting vaccinated elsewhere would “create difficulties ensuring that records are complete”.

Essex local pharmaceutical committee (LPC) chief executive officer Ash Pandya told C+D the note is “misleading” and “unnecessarily scaring patients”.

“Basically what they’re saying is we won’t know if you’ve had a flu jab or not. [But] we’re using [data tool] PharmOutcomes in Essex, which sends the message to the GP automatically,” he said.

The surgery told C+D it was unable to comment on the note.

NHS England told C+D it could not comment on individual cases but pledged to take “appropriate action where necessary and when information is passed onto us through official procedures”.

The examples come after C+D revealed a Doncaster GP practice had text-messaged its patients to inform them that getting vaccinated away from the practice “puts NHS money into private companies”.


Do you have evidence that a GP practice is discouraging patients from using the pharmacy flu service?

We want to hear your views, but please express them in the spirit of a constructive, professional debate. For more information about what this means, please click here to see our community principles and information


Sam Akram, Pharmacist

Majority of flu jabs in GP land are done by healthcare assistants under a patient specific direction. To become a healthcare assistant you need no qualifications.

Jay Badenhorst, Superintendent Pharmacist

Not a bad stab (no pun intended) for a national service if you look at the recorded figures from the psnc. Over 230k recorded so far. Brilliant! Let's keep it going and help the GPs reach their targets. Actually thinking about it, let's just vaccinate as many people as we can because THEY will actually benefit from it most.... no quibbles....

A LOCUM, Community pharmacist

in my area 'up north' gps have upped their game , more organised this year, more letters, phone calls, bluff appointments all to get them in and stabbed one after the other in long queues, talk about raking it in, gps dont even do the jabs, just get the profits and STILL MOAN !!!!!

Pillman Uk, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

I am pleased to hear that some surgeries removed ill worded posters when challenged, and even offered an apology. As for not using all their vaccines, did they order one for every eligible patient? I think time has come to accept that the pharmacy scheme is here to stay, and how best for both professions to maximise uptake across all groups

DHARA BABARIYA, Dispenser Manager/ Dispensing Assistant

Overall purpose of this service is to protect vulnerable people. GPs can not achieve target of 75% so pharmacy step in to improve health and reduce flu burden on NHS.

shelton magunje, Community pharmacist

GPs will not win this one, the days of the public believing that a doctor is a mini God are gone! Our flu jab service is fast and efficient with no appointment needed, lets see if the GP can beat that! I am doing 10 to 15 flu jabs per day and there is nothing the local GP can do to stop that! IN YOUR FACE GP!

Christopher Donaldson, Community pharmacist

NHS England will take no action. They are toothless. GP's do what they want- online pharmacies, botox clinics, before patients.

Mike Jarrett, Community pharmacist

I felt the same as the Kenneth McRae medical centre when I lost £800 back along, when GP's suddenly took over the flu vaccine provision! Bless !

Graham Phillips, Superintendent Pharmacist

Shock horror! GPs protecting their business! Who'd a thought it?? Now I'm not condoning this unprofessional behaviour one has to ask why NHS England made such a complete horlicks of commissioning this service. It has been an absolute nightmare for all concerned when the alternative of a National Pharmacy-Led Common Ailments service would have added far more value and would have enjoyed GPs' support

I can;t help but think that all of this infighting is helping NHS England along. The situation has arisen because of the late organisation of their doing, yet they get to sit back and watch while professions squabble amongst themselves at a time when it is downright imperative that we all stand together.

London Locum, Locum pharmacist

I wouldn't call it a fight to be fair. GPs vs Pharmacists is like a child pulling the wings off a fly.

Sunil lakhani, Community pharmacist

It is a real shame and the true colours of some GP's showing through, putting income before patient well being. The service is an opportunity for wider public engagement and uptake of vaccines, proved by the success in pharmacies last year and will be again this year no doubt, so the ugly face of greed, from GP's will rise again, as it has already done. We've had patients being humiliated, shouted at and many from one practice incentivized with two month prescriptions for getting their flu jabs done at that practice, most will never complain for fear of being struck off the list, how sad that some of the medical professionals stoop to such low extremes?

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