NHSE: 1,300 pharmacy sites are providing Covid booster jabs
Ed Waller, the director for primary care strategy and NHS contracts, has said 1,300 pharmacy Covid vaccination sites in England are delivering booster jabs in England and insisted that number will increase.
Mr Waller told the Pharmacy Show on Monday that the number of pharmacies involved in the roll-out of Covid vaccines overall has “ramped up massively”. His comments followed uncertainty over how many pharmacies that applied to take part in phase three of the vaccination programme were accepted and how many rejected.
Pharmacies in some parts of the country have reportedly experienced difficulties getting involved in the booster programme. NHS England and Improvement did not respond when asked by Independent Community Pharmacist how many pharmacies had successfully applied and how many were turned down, but Mr Waller at least appeared to provide an answer to how many pharmacies had been accepted.
“There are 1,300 sites now. The ongoing configuration of where we’ll deliver vaccination has shifted. When we started, there were just a couple of hundred pharmacies. The number of pharmacies involved has ramped up massively," he said.
“That will continue to change as a function of where people want to get vaccinated, where we’ve got the capacity. That number will probably only go up.”
Mr Waller also said there were a number of incentives in place to persuade GPs to refer more patients to community pharmacies through the community pharmacist consultation service. Just 13,000 patients from 280 practices were referred to pharmacies through the GP CPCS between October 2020 and May this year.
Mr Waller said the primary care network contract “has something akin to” the pharmacy quality scheme known as the investment and impact fund which this year incentivises GPs to engage with pharmacies “to make a plan to increase CPCS referrals.”
'Number of reasons' for poor CPCS numbers
He also said the government’s £250m winter access package announced last week to help practices improve their availability to patients came with “a very clear statement that that was dependent on people engaging” with the GP CPCS.
“I think it is fair to say there haven’t been as many referrals as anyone would like. I think there’s a number of reasons for that,” he said.
“First, it was launched right in the middle of the second wave over the autumn into last year. I’m not sure that was the best moment but we thought, on balance, it was best to start.
“It wasn’t the best moment for a lot of people to spend a lot of time implementing something. That is part of the reason why we have agreed to put more resources into exactly that, into connecting with every practice and making sure they understand the opportunity and to make sure we increase those numbers of referrals.”
Mr Waller, however, said that “in some of the best practices, you’re talking about 50-plus patients a week sent to community pharmacy” and insisted if that can be replicated more widely, “there’s an awful lot of potential there.”