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Supply problems delay London flu jab service

Practice Pharmacists are being “stumped by supply issues” despite the service having launched two weeks ago, Pharmacy London flu team member Hiten Patel (pictured) has warned

Medicine supply problems and out-of-date email lists have prevented some London pharmacies from delivering a commissioned flu vaccine service, C+D has learned.  

Some pharmacists in the capital were still "in the blind" about when the flu vaccine was going to arrive, despite the service having launched two weeks ago, LPC consortium Pharmacy London told C+D (October 3).  

Other pharmacies had never received the email telling them how to get involved the service, PGD service PharmaDoctor said.

A commissioned flu vaccine service risks being "stumped by supply issues", said Pharmacy London flu team member Hiten Patel  

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Manufacturer Sanofi, which provides the flu vaccine to many of the pharmacies, said it expected all of its vaccine orders to be delivered to customers on time.

NHS London said individual suppliers were responsible for sourcing the vaccine and that NHS England had worked closely with LPCs to ensure a "sufficient supply".  

Almost 1,200 pharmacists across London had expressed an interest in offering the service, which aims to vaccinate at-risk and elderly patients, said Hiten Patel, a member of Pharmacy London's flu team.  

But they were at risk of being "stumped by supply issues" because manufacturers had struggled to deliver the vaccine in time for the launch of the service at the end of September, he told C+D last week.  

"We're just waiting, that's the problem. We're in the blind because of a lack of knowledge about what the final outcome is going to be," said Mr Patel, who is also chairman of Ealing, Hammersmith & Hounslow LPC.  

Mike Bereza, managing director of PharmaDoctor, which offers flu training, said he had received calls from pharmacists who had missed the deadline to join the scheme because they had not received an email telling them how to sign up.  

Mr Bereza thought it was because LPCs held out-of-date email addresses for some pharmacies and warned that it could affect whether the NHS commissioned more services from community pharmacy in the future.  

"We're getting commissioned this year [because] we're hungry for new services and we'll make it a success. But if it comes to next year and they say ‘you didn't reach your targets', [pharmacists] will say ‘but you only sent out emails to 50 per cent of us'," he told C+D.  

However, Mr Patel said he had not received any complaints from pharmacists who had not received the email. It would have been sent to the same addresses that LPCs use to regularly communicate with pharmacies in their area, he added.  

The flu scheme aims to increase vaccine uptake across the capital from 45 per cent to 65 per cent of those considered at risk. Under the scheme, pharmacists will be reimbursed £7.51 per vaccine, the same as GPs.  

Any contractor having difficulty sourcing the vaccine should contact their LPC "as their first port of call", an NHS London spokesperson said.

Have you received your stock of the flu vaccine?

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REBECCA Myers, Community pharmacist

I must also praise the london flu team (especially Beneeta who we dealt with) who worked really hard to get this service up and running. Yes there were problems registering all pharmacies -we were still awaiting confirmation of registration for between 25-35 pharmacies the day before the service was due to start- but the London flu team communicated well and were tireless in helping to resolve problems. From a central point of view we saw communication from a large number of LPC's (although one in particular that will remain nameless refused to communicate with us centrally!) which was very positive, clear and helpful for contractors.

This was a massive project that was put into action in a relatively short (in nhs terms) space of time- and I think we need to wait for the outcomes to be analysed before we start criticising it.

Yes, there are some supply issues- but aren't there always supply issues with flu vaccines? We have only been involved with this service for the last 3 years but it does seem to be a pattern of supply problems- and I' m sure it doesn't help the manufacturers when the WHO change their strain information quite late on. The best way to deal with this is to manage customer expectations- it's a mild October so far, according to the HPA there are still low flu levels in the UK and there is nothing worrying coming up in the near future. Waiting another week or so - or prioritising patients to manage a restricted supply- is not an issue to those pharmacy staff that have good customer services skills.

Gursaran Matharu, Community pharmacist

This is not a picture that I recognise. The company that I locum for has 800 doses for their branches and we have vaccinated nearly 100 patients across 3 different HWB areas.

With regards to Mike Bereza's comments he should be sending any contractors that contact him to their respective LPCs and he'll find that all contractors have been contacted. Whether they open their e-mails and read them... that is another matter!

As Winston Churchill said
“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

Those who saw opportunity ran with the service, those who difficulty moaned!

Mike Bereza, Community pharmacist

This comment is a little bit out of context. The London Flu team has done an incredible job in pushing out the service, as mentioned above, the majority of pharmacists are ready to go. However, there are a few stragglers left behind who would love to be commissioned, but got there too late, for whatever reason, the key point is community pharmacy is hungry for this. What we need to do now is focus on smashing the 65% target and proving pharmacy is a worthwhile investment for the future of the NHS. PharmaDoctor is committed to this and offers free support, marketing materials and referral letters via the site.

Local Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

This article does not reflect our experience at our pharmacies. The service is in full force- we have now vaccinated over 400 patients between four of our pharmacies. This is a win win for all involved - Patients, Pharmacists, GPs and the NHS. Every patient vaccinated has filled out an evaluation form and the service is extremely well received by them! Patients are loving the convenience and are extremely grateful that NHS England has commissioned this service from pharmacies giving them a choice. The service is a great success for us!!

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