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Influenza (Flu)

Large parts of Scotland will not commission flu vaccinations from community pharmacies

Exclusive: Only two of six health boards in Scotland contacted by The Pharmaceutical Journal said they would definitely be using community pharmacies to provide flu vaccinations this winter.

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Despite a successful pilot programme, some health boards in Scotland are currently not planning to use community pharmacies for flu vaccinations

Several health boards will not use community pharmacies to deliver flu vaccinations this winter, despite being able to do so for the first time.

The use of pharmacies to provide vaccinations was piloted in NHS Lothian and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde in the 2019/2020 flu season, and the Scottish government announced in August 2020 that community pharmacies could be commissioned to provide the service across the country this year. 

But only two of six health boards who responded to questions from The Pharmaceutical Journal said they would definitely be commissioning community pharmacies to provide flu vaccinations to the general public. 

NHS Tayside and NHS Ayrshire and Arran said they planned to involve community pharmacies in delivering the flu vaccine, and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said that it was “under consideration following a successful pilot”.

A spokesperson for NHS Grampian said that “NHS staff and other staff who provide ‘hands on personal care’ have been able to obtain their flu vaccine in the past from community pharmacies and this will continue to be available this flu season.

“At the moment, community pharmacy involvement is for occupational flu delivery and not for patients”.

Susan Laidlaw, NHS Shetland consultant in public health, said: “All our flu vaccinations this year will be delivered, as usual, through primary care, community nursing, schools, maternity and occupational health services”.

She added that “it may be looked at again in the future”.

George Lindsay, NHS Lanarkshire chief pharmacist in primary care, said the board will deliver flu vaccinations to the “more than 300,000 people” who are eligible.

Owing to the scale of the programme and the impact of COVID-19, Lindsay said: “We are planning on holding large vaccination clinics to ensure physical distancing and a fast throughput of patients. Before making our decision, we considered community pharmacy with representatives from Community Pharmacy Lanarkshire and the area pharmaceutical committee. However, we ultimately decided on our mass vaccination model.”

Adam Osprey, policy and development pharmacist at Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS), said CPS was “confident that, where involved, community pharmacy will make a significant contribution to the vaccination efforts this year, and that it will be in everyone’s best interests to find a way to carry on this involvement in the long term”.

Community pharmacies that do provide the vaccinations in Scotland will be paid a fee of £8.27 for each vaccination given, as well as a one-off £250 participation fee, the Scottish government said in a letter from Rose Marie Parr, Scotland’s chief pharmaceutical officer, on 21 August 2020.

Many pharmacies in Scotland already offer flu vaccinations on a private basis. According to the letter, details about the reimbursement of privately procured influenza vaccines used in delivering the NHS service will be issued “in the coming weeks”.

On 7 August 2020, the Scottish government announced the expansion of its free flu vaccination programme, with the capacity to “vaccinate more people than ever before”.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2020.20208294

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