Flu season is well underway, so we’ve all become familiar with telephone calls checking if we have the vaccines available and the well-meaning shouts over the counter asking: “Do I need an appointment for a jab?”
Occasionally, a patient offered a vaccine might be surprised that pharmacies offer the service, and politely decline, while others decide that next year they’ll get one in a pharmacy, because the queue was too big at the GP surgery.
To those seasoned in providing flu vaccines, the stories of local competition are no surprise. This year things feel a little more heated – perhaps the scarcity of funding is getting to us all.
I’ve heard stories of GPs telling patients that pharmacies use out-of-date vaccines, that patients will lose their surgery if they get vaccinated in a pharmacy, and other tales suggesting a negative undercurrent between practices and community pharmacies. Granted, every pharmacy and surgery is in a similar situation of wanting funding. But we need to respect each other, as we all deserve a slice of the pie.
While we in pharmacy are familiar with the Pharmacy Quality Scheme, those who work for GP practices have the Quality and Outcomes Framework. Both are designed to provide financial rewards to the care provider for quality service provision within the relevant clinical criteria.
Influenza vaccinations sit on both of these schemes, and therefore serve to encourage provision of vaccines to secure funding. However, the attitude towards other professions and their abilities should be none other than professional, while we all make haste in the funding race.
In reality, funding goals should be set aside and patients should first and foremost remain the priority. We’re beginning to lose sight of why we spend so much time vaccinating those at risk. Preventing a serious bout of influenza is more important. The aim is ensuring that patients are protected – that babies don’t get it, that the elderly aren’t struck down by their infected carer, and that asthmatics don’t find themselves in a hospital on a nebuliser.
Patient safety should remain at the heart of what we do, for pharmacists and doctors alike. I think in this case we could say ‘teamwork makes the dream work’. This means putting patients first, funding last and a whole lot of respect between healthcare professionals.
Laura Buckley is a community pharmacist based in north England