Over the last month, we’ve seen both the best and worst sides of England’s pharmacy flu service. First, let’s focus on the positives. The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee has highlighted NHS statistics that show community pharmacy teams racked up more than 150,000 vaccinations in the first three weeks of this year’s initiative. As the total number of jabs delivered by the sector for the whole of last flu season came to just under 600,000, this can only be described as a winning start.
But, in a depressing repetition of last year, this good work has been marred by reports of GPs continuing to deter their patients from receiving their vaccination in a pharmacy. As well as anonymous reports of doctors threatening individuals with being “delisted” if they dare to cross the tracks and make use of the pharmacy service, C+D has seen notices added to GP practice websites, electronic prescriptions and even text messages.
The motives for GPs to initially kick back against the pharmacy scheme last year were, in part at least, understandable. The original scheme was announced by NHS England relatively late in the day, leaving some surgeries with a surplus of vaccines – and perhaps a deficit of understanding about how adding another flu provider would benefit patients.
But that’s where the sympathy should end. GPs have had a year to get used to the new flu commissioning landscape, and adjust their vaccine orders and expectations accordingly. While urging patients to remain protected against influenza, certain practices continue to promote the idea that every flu jab received outside of the surgery brings them one step closer to financial ruin.
Xrayser summed up this ongoing hypocrisy perfectly: “It’s important to have your flu jab. But at your doctor’s, not anywhere else.”
Despite these efforts, the message from the public has been clear: they appreciate the convenience of receiving their vaccination when and where they want, not to mention the first-rate care that pharmacists and their staff pride themselves on.
It’s reassuring to see NHS England promise that its regional teams will investigate pharmacists’ complaints at a local level. To help us ensure the commissioner lives up to its pledge, please continue to report any flu diversion tactics to [email protected].