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Vaccination

GP practice says the delivery of flu vaccinations in pharmacies could financially harm surgeries

A statement from a GP practice in Fleet, Hampshire, says it does not consider it a “favour” for pharmacies to administer flu vaccinations, while a pharmacy group has expressed disappointment at the comments.

Flu vaccine

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As the flu vaccination season begins, a GP practice has asked patients not to have their vaccine at a pharmacy or supermarket, but to visit them directly instead

A GP practice has told patients that community pharmacies and supermarkets “are not doing us a favour by giving you the [flu] vaccine — quite the opposite,” in a message on its website.

As the flu vaccination season begins in September 2019, the practice, based in Fleet, Hampshire, has told patients that if they have their immunisation away from the practice then GP surgeries may struggle to survive and may no longer be able to offer the vaccination programme.

It writes: “GP surgeries run like businesses and in order to survive, the flu vaccine programme helps generate income by meeting NHS England targets. If that money goes elsewhere, surgeries struggle to survive and can no longer offer the service.”

The comments appear in a post inviting patients aged over 65 years to a Saturday morning flu vaccination clinic.

The practice reminds patients that GPs have access to their full patient record — something that is unavailable to pharmacists — and that family doctors use the vaccination consultation to review other relevant medical issues.

They write: “Help us gather your data and ensure your health is up to date all in one appointment. Have your flu vaccine in an environment that you know, with clinicians and staff you know and where we have your FULL medical records immediately to hand.”

Community Pharmacy South Central Local Pharmaceutical Committee (LPC), which covers Hampshire, expressed disappointment at the practice’s comments.

Deborah Crockford, chief officer of the Community Pharmacy South Central LPC, said the practice had made similar remarks before and the LPC had raised the issue with the Local Medical Committee (LMC), NHS England Wessex and the clinical commissioning group.

She told The Pharmaceutical Journal that the practice’s attitude was exceptional and that the LPC was working collaboratively with the LMC during this flu season to reach patients who are in at risk groups.

Crockford said: “It’s disappointing and such an old fashioned attitude. There seems to be no consequences when surgeries do this kind of thing and I also find that disappointing.”

The flu vaccination season begins amid a warning that some supplies of the inactivated quadrivalent influenza vaccine will be delayed this season.

Public Health England, NHS England and NHS Improvement have warned that manufacturer Sanofi Pasteur will phase in its supplies in 2019, with deliveries now expected by the end of November 2019. Flu vaccinations are usually available in community pharmacies from the beginning of September 2019.

Late supplies of the standard egg-grown vaccine, which is suitable for adults at risk of flu who are aged under 65 years, was caused by a delayed decision from the World Health Organization on which viruses should be included in the vaccines, they said.

Rekha Shah, who leads on pharmacy NHS vaccination services for London LPCs said delays are not expected to be widespread.

“I have contacted other suppliers to look at what was happening in London and they are on schedule,” she said. 

“As far as I am aware, the only company with a supply issue is Sanofi.”

Richmond Surgery was approached for comment.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2019.20207016

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