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Where next for vaccinations in pharmacy?

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Where next for vaccinations in pharmacy?

We already have the core infrastructure for a ‘national vaccination service’. It is called the community pharmacy network, says NPA board member Reena Barai

Health secretary Sajid Javid has been making noises about the need for a “national vaccination service”.

It is meant to take vaccination workload off GPs and avoid situations in the future where they are asked to suspend routine care in the face of national emergencies. Yet this country already has the core infrastructure for a national vaccination service – it is called the community pharmacy network.

Having delivered well over 20 million Covid jabs and 5 million flu jabs this season, pharmacies have proven their capabilities in this space beyond question. The sector also has a track record with travel jabs, hepatitis and more.

Patients want more

At my own pharmacy, as a result of offering Covid vaccinations, patients are starting to ask about travel vaccines, as well as PCR and LFT testing services to travel abroad. They now realise that pharmacies are about more than dispensing pills.

While vaccinating I have had so many examples of patients whose blood pressure or oxygen levels I have checked and then referred to A&E for life-threatening issues the GP didn’t pick up because they had not seen the patient face-to-face.

I think we could provide health checks to patients alongside vaccinations, BMI, blood pressure and other measures – for example, check if they are up to date with cancer screening, monitor long-term conditions or carry out medication review. All this would help to bust the NHS backlog of care and further elevate the status of the clinical community pharmacist.

The Covid jabs programme has consumed my life. I have had to increase my workforce and expand the roles of my current team. Every pharmacist and technician I have employed is a trained vaccinator, as is every locum I use.

My own team, working long hours, has been exhausted at times and this has been a barrier – so a national vaccination service would certainly require additional workforce and this needs to be considered in terms of fees for the service.

The fact I only have one consultation room is another issue. I wish I could add at least two more but this would require a commitment to greater sector funding for me to take the risk and get a loan to expand.

No regrets

The Covid vaccination programme has been a huge workload but it is something I do not regret. We have vaccinated and run the pharmacy without compromising on any of the services we provide.

Pharmacies have had an impact on their local communities that we can all be proud of and I have never done something that means so much to so many people.

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