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GP flu jab banners send wrong message says MP

Amber Valley MP Nigel Mills

Exclusive: The actions of some GP practices trying to convince patients to have their flu jab at their local surgery rather than a community pharmacy are unhelpful, a Conservative MP has told Pharmacy Network News.

In the chamber last week, Amber Valley MP Nigel Mills asked Matt Hancock what he would do to encourage GPs and pharmacies “to work together, not compete for revenue” in what is expected to be the busiest flu jab season since the service first launched.

Speaking to PNN yesterday, Mr Mills said pharmacists in his constituency had spoken to him about banners and signs outside some local GP surgeries encouraging patients to have their vaccination there and suggesting “that if they go elsewhere they’re depriving their surgery of much needed funds”.

He said pharmacies have asked him “why are GPs discouraging people from using a service that’s NHS funded and perfectly reliable and safe, and for many people more convenient”.

“As a Government we are commissioning pharmacies to give NHS flu jabs and then another part of the health system is trying to discourage people from going down that line.

“I don’t want GPs to lose funding, but equally that’s not a particularly constructive way of working at a time when we’re trying to get the health system to work together and convince patients to think ‘pharmacy first’ in some circumstances… that’s not going to work if one of the things patients can do in pharmacies is being discouraged by GP practices.” 

Mr Mills also said he has spoken to local patients frustrated with the current GP virtual consultation model who have been discouraged from attending their surgery but are “all of a sudden getting text messages saying you need to make an appointment to go in [for your flu jab]”.

This is “bizarre” and “inconsistent” after months of reduced face-to-face contact, he said.

He said the NHS would need to change the funding model to incentivise cooperative working. “We need to find a way as a health system… to fund you to do this in a cooperative way rather than fighting each other to see who can get the most patients.

“Neither pharmacists nor GPs have the capacity to do everything and all have social distancing restrictions.”

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