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Pharmacy flu jab service ‘likely’ to be delayed by a month


Pharmacy flu jab service ‘likely’ to be delayed by a month

Community Pharmacy England has said it is “extremely frustrated” with NHS England’s last-minute changes to the 2023-24 pharmacy flu jab service that could see implementation delayed by up to a month.

NHSE published the community pharmacy seasonal influenza vaccination service specification on Friday August 4. This included a qualifying statement explaining that while the official launch date will be September 1 as in previous years, the commencement date “will be announced and authorised by the commissioner in the Primary Care Bulletin”.

CPE said it had been advised that the service start date “is likely to be in October” and that the decision will be made based on guidance from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. The JCVI guidance may also “include requirements related to the prioritisation of certain eligible cohorts of patients,” CPE added.

The delay may be linked to the Government’s goal to reach at-risk individuals with Covid-19 booster vaccines in a programme that is also likely to launch this October.

Sky News reporter Mark Thompson tweeted on Saturday that the delay in launching the service could apply to the programme as a whole and not just pharmacies.

CPE director of NHS services Alastair Buxton said the negotiator was “extremely frustrated by NHSE’s insistence that the service specification is changed to allow them to determine the date for commencement of vaccinations, rather than the service starting on September 1”.

Mr Buxton commented: “We understand there may be a clinical rationale for a delayed start, subject to the advice of the JCVI, but it is not the behaviour of a responsible organisation to impose such a change without adequate prior notice being given to pharmacy owners.

“Notice should have been provided last year, so the change in policy could have been reflected in pharmacy owners’ vaccine orders for the season and in their plans for booking advance appointments for patients wanting to be vaccinated in September.

“When NHS England first proposed this change several weeks ago, we strongly objected to this, due to the lack of adequate notice, but they were not willing to listen to our arguments on the impact it would have on pharmacy owners and their teams, or on the patients who have already booked their vaccination appointments in September.”

Mr Buxton also voiced CPE’s frustration with the decision to freeze pharmacy reimbursement at £9.58 per jab plus vaccine costs, commenting: “Community pharmacy owners are facing impossible cost increases so it is deeply frustrating that NHS England – who have all the evidence they need on this – are refusing to recognise this in the flu vaccination fee. We will continue to make the case to the NHS for increased funding for the service in future years.”

Changes to the service specification from last year include removing eligibility from the 50-64 low risk cohort, as previously announced in the 2023-24 flu letter, and removal of the manual requirement to share vaccination data with a patient’s general practice.

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