As a pharmacist who has worked in both community and general practice, one thing I’m very aware of is that not all our skills and activities are directly transferable between sectors. Delivering the flu vaccination programme is a really good example.
In community pharmacy, pharmacists ‘own’ the flu vaccination service; it is led by patient group direction and the pharmacist is empowered to assess and determine who is appropriate for vaccination.
The whole premise of the service is underpinned by community pharmacy’s unique selling point within primary care: that they are the most accessible healthcare professionals. By offering flu vaccines, they can increase uptake and further enhance their public health role.
In general practice – with the exception of ad hoc vaccinations that may occur as part of a consultation – pharmacists joining the ‘team’ of flu vaccine providers are merely being used to bump up numbers for practices, and not to improve the safety or quality of the service.
This demeans our key differentiator within general practice multidisciplinary teams – the fact that we are the medicines experts.
The temptation to ‘muck in’ is strong – especially to newcomers wanting to prove themselves – but right from the outset, we should be focusing on the roles that really make us stand out and directly takes workload away from GPs.
Flu vaccinations don’t do this. I have yet to come across a practice where all the GPs roll up their sleeves and join the cattle herding exercise that is a surgery ‘flu day’.
In the University of Nottingham’s evaluation of the clinical pharmacists in general practice pilot scheme, I was sad to read repeated references to how GP pharmacists made themselves useful by supporting the practice to deliver flu vaccines. What does that say about how some – even in our own profession – view the role?
I can think of a lot of tasks in relation to medicines and prescribing that even pharmacists new to general practice could be doing from day one, in order to show a real impact in improving quality and reducing work pressure for GPs. All of which reinforces our presence there as medicines experts, and provides a healthy foundation on which to develop the role. Providing flu vaccines is not something that will make us stand out.
I’m particularly perturbed when I hear of independent prescribers excitedly embracing flu vaccinations as a valid role. How does providing services that practice nurses and healthcare assistants are able to do show what pharmacists working at the top of their game can uniquely achieve in general practice?
Thankfully, I have never been asked to get involved in flu vaccinations at the GP practice where I work. However, if I was, I could easily reel off a list of all the things I won’t be doing while I’m flu-jabbing – all of which are tasks that only a GP would be able to do instead. That’s where our value lies.
The GP Pharmacist is a former community pharmacist working in a general practice