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Hundreds of community pharmacies apply to run COVID-19 vaccination sites, say negotiators

NHS England is expected to decide this week which community pharmacies have been chosen to run COVID-19 vaccination sites.

Open access article

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has made this article free to access in order to help healthcare professionals stay informed about an issue of national importance.

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LloydsPharmacy is one of the pharmacy chains that have applied to help administer the vaccine at nominated branches

Hundreds of community pharmacies have submitted expressions of interest to NHS England to run designated vaccination sites, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has said.

The PSNC’s comments were made ahead of NHS England’s decision on which applications from community pharmacies were successful, which is expected to be made on 18 December 2020.

The statement, made on 16 December 2020, said NHS England regional teams “are currently working with contractors that submitted proposals for areas where additional capacity is required, to assess whether the sites can be approved to participate in the vaccination programme”.

Community pharmacies were invited to apply to become designated vaccination centres in November 2020, with NHS England saying at the time that it would approve applications from a “limited number” of sites.

The chosen sites are expected to be located in areas that lack provision from PCN-led vaccination sites.

LloydsPharmacy previously told The Pharmaceutical Journal that it had nominated branches to provide COVID-19 vaccines, while local pharmaceutical committee (LPC) leaders said “there has been a considerable application from community pharmacies” to participate in the vaccination programme.

However, some community pharmacists have already taken on responsibility for administering COVID-19 vaccines in vaccination sites led by primary care networks (PCNs).

Garry Myers, a community pharmacist in Sheffield, began vaccinating patients on 15 December 2020 from his local PCN vaccination site.

Myers said it was “great to be one of the first community pharmacists in the world to administer the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, but I know many of my colleagues are really keen to play their part too over the coming weeks”.

“Hopefully the practical challenges seen with the current vaccine will lessen as more vaccines are authorised for use, increasing the ability of community pharmacy teams to play a larger role in the programme.”

Meanwhile, independent prescribing community pharmacists in Kent LPC have supported East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust in issuing patient specific directions (PSDs) for the COVID-19 vaccine.

Sunil Kochhar, one of the independent prescribers, said the group of community pharmacists “dropped their normal work to help patients and the NHS by writing PSDs for each vaccine administered”, adding that they ”had helped the hospital deliver 400 vaccinations” in one day.

Alastair Buxton, director of NHS Services at PSNC, said the number of applications “to run a vaccination site demonstrates the appetite of the sector to participate in the programme and help the country recover from the pandemic”.

“The vaccination programme will not be without its challenges, but community pharmacists and their teams are used to overcoming hurdles to provide the best care to their patients, so we believe their skills should be used by the NHS to help administer the tens of millions of vaccinations that will be needed to help England escape from the grip of the pandemic,” he said.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2020.20208680

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