Community pharmacists will be able to provide flu vaccinations “in any appropriate space within the pharmacy” this flu season, NHS England & Improvement has said.
NHSE&I published the service specification for this year’s community pharmacy flu vaccination service on the afternoon of Friday August 28, days before the service launch date of September 1.
The service spec document offers no details on payment. The PSNC hopes to conclude funding talks for the service early this week, with director of NHS services Alastair Buxton commenting: “It is frustrating that we are not able to confirm the funding details for the service so close to its launch, but PSNC believes that continuing to push HM Government and the NHS to provide the right funding for contractors is the right thing to do.”
Among the key changes from last year is increased flexibility regarding where flu jabs can be given, a key negotiating point for the PSNC in recent talks. In order to help contractors meet Covid-19 social distancing requirements, they may now offer vaccinations “in any area of the pharmacy where suitable facilities are available and patient confidentiality is able to be respected”.
However, all pharmacies providing the service must have a consultation room and must use it “wherever the patient expresses this preference”.
There is also greater flexibility to administer flu jabs outside the pharmacy; whereas before, off-site vaccinations were solely permitted in care homes or in patients’ homes, they may now also take place in ‘community venues’ such as community centres.
Contractors must ensure their professional indemnity covers off-site vaccinations, and must have cold-chain storage and clinical waste disposal measures in place.
The need to notify regional NHSE&I teams in advance of providing off-site vaccinations, and to notify a patient’s GP before vaccinating them in their home or care home, have both been removed. Furthermore, patients can now provide verbal rather than written consent to receive their immunisation, with the patient’s consent noted in the clinical record.
The document also lists the patient cohorts who are eligible for free NHS flu vaccinations during the coronavirus pandemic, with 50 to 64-year-olds among those included this year. However, in order to priorities the most at-risk groups, people aged 50 to 64 will not be eligible until an official announcement is made by NHSE&I; this is expected in November or December.
Alastair Buxton commented: “This year the flu vaccination service is going to be different for all involved and pharmacy contractors and their teams need to consider which options will suit them and their patients to find the best ways in which to provide the service.”
Mr Buxton said the PSNC was “pleased to have been able to agree a range of new flexibilities which will hopefully help pharmacy teams to achieve significant growth in the number of vaccinations administered, in line with the aspirations of the Government and NHS”.