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Here ends my sympathy for GPs' flu service concerns

"Help us ensure NHS England lives up to its pledge by reporting incidents of flu diversion"

Evidence of more flu diversion tactics by GPs is a depressing repetition of last year’s service, says James Waldron

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].

4 Comments

Yo Palumeri, Community pharmacist

let's go to any willing provider model  and improve life for patients

Clapton Chemist, Other healthcare profession

GPs and pharmacy contractors equally greedy. It's quite a tussle.

Z ZZzzzz, Information Technology

PSNC's briefing this morning about trying to resolve things locally and don't make too much of a fuss is already one year too late.  When will they ever learn that the softly softly way of doing things never works when it comes to dealing with GPs.  I would urge everyone to get reporting to NHSE every incidence where there is local badgering at GP surgeries and lets see whether NHSE's words are merely cotton candy rhetoric - which I believe it is.

Nat Mitchell, Community pharmacist

The sad reality is that GP's are not used to competition.  If they were, then we would all no doubt receive better service from our practice.  As a pharmacist, you have to offer a better service than your competitor as the patient has a choice of where he or she goes.  But what you can't do, is lay a guilt trip on the patient if they decide not to use you.

I have been truly embarrassed when faced with a patient made to feel disloyal for getting a flu jab with me, when they have merely exercised the fundamental right of free choice.

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