Cut 'red tape' so pharmacies can vaccinate, Government urged
Community pharmacy representatives have called on the Government to “suspend the red tape” so pharmacies can focus on offering Covid vaccinations as daily targets are increased.
Prime minister Boris Johnson announced in a televised address last night that the Government was setting a new target of offering a booster jab to all adults over 18 by the end of this month in the face of what he called an “Omicron emergency”.
Over-30s who have had their second jab more than two months ago can now book a booster appointment online, while all over-18s will be able to do so from Wednesday. Some centres are already offering walk-in appointments to eligible over-18s.
Mr Johnson announced measures to speed up vaccinations such as setting up more vaccine sites and mobile units, recruiting and training thousands more volunteer vaccinators and extending the opening hours of some existing sites.
Responding to the accelerated roll out plans in England, Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies chief executive Leyla Hannbeck called on the Government to suspend “box ticking requirements” for pharmacies so they can better direct their efforts. Community pharmacy-led sites make up around half of the almost 3,000 vaccination sites currently live in England.
Ms Hannbeck called for pharmacies to be offered similar treatment to GP surgeries, who are having their QOF requirements partly suspended until April.
Ms Hannbeck said: “Why is the Government not reducing red tape for pharmacies and suspending unnecessary box ticking, allowing us to prioritise patient care and vaccinations?
“What needs to happen is the government suspending the red tape, give us a level playing field to free up our workforce to support the programme, particularly with the tight deadline to vaccinate everyone by end of this month.
“Throughout the pandemic we demonstrated agility and resilience and kept our doors open to see patients face to face, we are willing to help so why are we not getting a level playing field so that we can deliver what patients need?”
RPS England chair Thorrun Govind said: “We’ve already seen an amazing response from pharmacists and pharmacy teams to support the national effort on COVID-19 and flu vaccinations.
“I know more pharmacists are keen to get involved and it’s vital they’re able to do this across all of England’s regions, and that future expressions of interest are processed as quickly as possible.
“Pharmacy teams across the health service have been giving their all and are already at risk of burnout, so the Government and NHS must ensure they commit the funding, resources and staffing to help meet this ambitious new target.
“Pharmacists are already delivering essential care for patients, so this renewed effort must include making best use of the pharmacy workforce across the health service and re-prioritising workload so that pharmacists across care settings can contribute to the booster campaign.
“This also means urgently agreeing flexibilities for teams in community pharmacy and the wider NHS, such as rest breaks and pharmacy opening hours, and cutting bureaucracy such as contract or audit requirements so they can focus on what’s needed most.”