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Pharmacies should be allowed to set aside time solely for vaccination delivery, pharmacy negotiator says

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee is in discussions around ways to mitigate pharmacy workload and staffing pressures during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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

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Vaccine being administered


A spokesperson for the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee has confirmed that, under new NHS regulations, there is an allowance for pharmacies to provide a relevant immunisation service for a specified period within core or supplementary hours

Pharmacy teams should be able to spend part of the day focusing entirely on vaccination delivery during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has said.

The call is one of several “action points” that the negotiator has been discussing with NHS England and the government, which are aimed at addressing workload and staffing pressures during the second wave of the pandemic.

A spokesperson for the PSNC told The Pharmaceutical Journal that under new NHS pharmacy regulations, there is an allowance for pharmacies to provide a relevant immunisation service for a specified period within core or supplementary hours — during which period no other NHS pharmacy services would need to be provided.

But the spokesperson added that for this to happen, a national announcement from NHS England and NHS Improvement would be needed — and so the PSNC is calling for this announcement to be made.

The dedicated period for vaccinations could apply to both flu and coronavirus vaccinations. As of 25 November 2020, 1,976,304 flu vaccinations had been delivered in community pharmacy settings in England; already more than the 1,718,147 given in the whole of the 2019–2020 season. The position of community pharmacies in coronavirus vaccinations is yet to be finalised.

The negotiator is also calling for a national announcement that would allow pharmacy teams to work behind closed doors when needed: something that was introduced during the first lockdown, although it was later switched to local management.

Judy Thomas, director of contractor services at Community Pharmacy Wales, said that the national “closed door allowance” was still in place in Wales.

“This allows pharmacies to work behind closed doors for the first hour of each day and an hour at lunchtime. The feedback we have had from contractors is that this is currently sufficient to meet the workload pressures, though of course the vaccinations aren’t delivered in this period.

“All local health boards (LHBs) have also allowed for vaccinations to be carried out outside of contracted hours and off-site — subject to notification to LHBs — which has also helped.”

Thomas added that, as of the end of October 2020, community pharmacy teams in Wales had already delivered 61,748 flu vaccines: close to the total number of 64,094 delivered in community pharmacies in Wales for the whole of 2019–2020. 

In Scotland, the Coronavirus Act 2020 has meant that community pharmacies can be commissioned, at health board level, to provide NHS flu vaccines for the first time.

Adam Osprey, policy and development pharmacist at Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS), said that CPS “are, and will remain, engaged with Scottish government colleagues on the matter of COVID vaccinations on behalf of our members, and will communicate any agreements or relevant information as soon as they are available.

“As the only healthcare setting still easily accessible to patients and the public across Scotland, the priority for the community pharmacy network is maintaining continuity of service delivery and medicines supply, so any arrangement would have to take this into consideration”.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2020.20208598

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