NHS England to choose 'selected' number of pharmacies to deliver at least 1,000 COVID-19 vaccines per week
In a letter to contractors, NHS England has said it plans to “commission selected community pharmacy contractors” to administer COVID-19 vaccines, based on their ability to meet a specific set of requirements.
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Pharmacies designated as COVID-19 vaccination sites by NHS England will need to administer “at least 1,000 vaccines each week” if they are to become part of the national vaccine delivery programme.
In a letter sent to contractors on 27 November 2020, NHS England said it was planning for designated pharmacy sites to be ready to administer COVID-19 vaccines under a local enhanced service (LES) from late December 2020 or early January 2021.
Selected pharmacies will be paid £12.58 per vaccination. If two doses per patient are required, a payment of £25.16 will be made on completion of the final dose.
However, NHS England said in the letter that it only plans to “commission selected community pharmacy contractors” who are able to deliver vaccines from a site that meets a specific set of requirements — outlined in a separate document — which include “fridge space to store (2–8ºC) 1,000 vaccine doses at one time”.
“Complex logistics” in the vaccine’s supply chain mean NHS England does “not expect the majority of contractors’ sites will be able to meet these requirements”, the letter said.
Instead, NHS England expects pharmacies “to continue their very important role in flu vaccination, particularly of the new 50–64 year-old cohort, and provision of other pharmaceutical services”.
“We expect to commission fewer community pharmacy sites than GP PCN [primary care network] led centres,” it added.
A set of requirements for designated pharmacy sites were published alongside the letter.
These included having the “capacity to administer at least 1,000 doses per week, ensuring all doses are administered within appropriate shelf life” and the “ability to deliver vaccinations 7 days a week from 8am to 8pm, including potentially on bank holidays, if required”.
Pharmacy sites will also need to have a “physical layout that will support administration of the minimum weekly volume, complying with social distancing and with space for any necessary post-vaccination care, including 15 minutes observation if the patient will be driving”.
A further document outlining the possible content of the LES notes that vaccinations will likely take place “on a site other than the registered premises and that GPhC [General Pharmaceutical Council] standards will apply to the provision of pharmaceutical services by the registered pharmacy”.
Alastair Buxton, director of NHS services at the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), said: “It is good to see NHS England & Improvement fulfilling its pledge to involve community pharmacy in the COVID-19 vaccination programme.
”However, as these documents show, site designation will only be attainable for a small number of pharmacies. Contractors will need to carefully consider whether they may be able to participate as a designated site, or if they would be better placed assisting in another way. Whilst the rollout of the programme will be managed at a local level, PSNC will continue to support this work.”
Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, said she welcomed the letter.
“Our members have been at the front line since this pandemic began and we want to help our communities get their normal lives back,” she said.
“Our members want to be involved, wherever we can be, in delivering vaccines, and it is good to see that NHSE/I [NHS England and NHS Improvement] have provided the information we have been waiting for to review the resources we have nationwide and decide how we can bring them to bear to help the NHS defeat this virus.”
Pharmacy contractors have until 6 December 2020 to apply for designation, with NHS England sending their decision back to contractors by 18 December 2020.
The letter from NHS England adds that a final LES agreement will be published “as soon as possible after a vaccine becomes available”.
Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2020.20208608
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