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July 29 2015

The new national contract for flu vaccination via community pharmacies could cause tensions with GPs, the pharmacy contractor negotiating body is warning.

While it suggests pharmacists should aim to work collaboratively with local GPs, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee says it “will be working nationally to try to ease any tensions with GPs.”

The warning follows the agreement for the pharmacy contract in England to introduce a national flu vaccination scheme in community pharmacies, as part of the settlement for 2015-16. Community pharmacies will be able to offer flu vaccinations from this September via a national patient group direction issued by NHS England.

Included in PSNC’s information to pharmacy contractors is a briefing document with the FAQ: “My local GP practices are very resistant to pharmacy services; how will I recruit patients for flu vaccination?”

PSNC’s advice for contractors is: “Collaborative working with local GP practices is an aim that all pharmacy teams will share, but it is possible that the national commissioning of flu vaccinations from community pharmacies may result in tensions with local GP practices. The majority of local NHS England teams commissioned a flu vaccination service from community pharmacy during the 2014-15 season and this prior local commissioning may already have exposed these issues.

“Community pharmacies will be able to proactively offer flu vaccination to eligible patients alongside dispensing and other services such as MUR [Medicines Use Reviews] and NMS [New Medicines Service] and whilst GP support for this would be helpful and should be encouraged, it is not necessary in order to successfully provide the service. PSNC will be working nationally to try to ease any tensions with GPs.”

PSNC has pointed out that around 90% of local pharmaceutical committees have agreed local vaccination schemes and many pharmacists will have had the appropriate training for providing the national flu vaccination service. Those who have been trained for this will not have to demonstrate further ability to provide the national service when it starts on September 1.

Pharmacy flu vaccination services were commissioned by 21 of the 25 NHS England Area Teams, said PSNC. “More than 5,000 pharmacy contractors signed up to the services, and in some areas 84% of those signed up were active vaccination providers.”

Funding for this new Advanced Service under the pharmacy contract will come from national flu budgets and is from outside the £2.8 billion pharmacy contract settlement, the same level as for 2014-15. Pharmacy contractors will be paid according to the number of patients from the target adult ‘at risk’ groups who are vaccinated.

Commenting on the new service as part of the pharmacy settlement, PSNC’s chief executive, Sue Sharpe, said: “Community pharmacy provision of NHS flu vaccinations makes absolute sense for patients and for commissioners, and a national service will give pharmacies the chance to offer a fairly funded professional service to a full range of eligible adult patients.

“The funding for the service comes from outside the agreed £2.8 billion and so is a welcome additional income source for contractors. It is an important step forward for the sector as we expand the provision of care and public health services alongside the dispensing of medicines.

“The commissioning of the new service shows that our messages about the impact pharmacy can have are starting to get through, and we must make the most of every opportunity given. We have been really frustrated by the delays in confirming the service, which we know will affect pharmacy planning and deployment in 2015-16, but despite this we believe we will be able to improve vaccination levels significantly this year.”

Links:

PSNC announcement    

PSNC Briefing 034/15: Community Pharmacy Flu Vaccination Advanced Service   

Briefing document    

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