NHS England has announced that it will recommission flu vaccinations in community pharmacies for 2016/17.
Nearly a quarter of a million more people benefited from vaccinations in a community pharmacy setting during the previous year, it says.
A total of 10,407,913 seasonal flu vaccinations were delivered in 2015/16. This included 240,259 additional patients who chose to receive vaccinations in a community pharmacy compared to the previous year.
The number of the most vulnerable patients receiving flu vaccination (those in an ‘at risk’ category and pregnant women) also increased, despite the mild winter.
“Our flu vaccination service made it possible for nearly a quarter of a million more people last year to receive a vaccination in their local community pharmacy of choice,” says Chief Pharmaceutical Officer Keith Ridge.
“We are pleased to confirm that we will continue to offer this more convenient option to the public during the year ahead.”
Pharmacy groups have welcomed the early announcement.
But GPs are warning that the move could leave them unable to plan their vaccine stock and cause shortages in an epidemic, and querying whether vaccine uptake has increased at all, GPonline reports.
The site says RCGP data from late last year shows GPs had administered 6% less flu vaccinations compared to the same time a year before.
It quotes GPC prescribing subcommittee lead Dr Andrew Green, wo recently told it, “Given the potential for pharmacy schemes to destabilise services we would renew our call for the scheme only to be continued if it can be shown to result in significantly increased uptake.
“The danger is that GPs for the coming season, fearful of being left with unused vaccines, will under-order resulting in problems with supplies should an epidemic hit and demand suddenly increase.
“Anyone suggesting that this is a measure to help with GP workload is being mischievous, if that were the case, why were negotiations being carried out in secret without involving the profession who should be oh-so-grateful for the assistance.”
In Australia, data from QPIP demonstrated that a significant number of people who would not normally get a vaccine at all were being vaccinated against flu in community pharmacy.
Ian Strachan, from the UK’s National Pharmacy Association, encouraged delegates to APP2016 in March to offer the service, saying it gave great professional satisfaction.
“Go for it, you’ll love it,” he said.