CCA responds to the launch of the Seasonal Influenza Vaccination Advanced Service Specification

It is critical that any changes are confirmed quickly so that decisions can be made.

Community Pharmacy England yesterday (8 August) wrote to Neil O’Brien the Minister for Primary Care and Public Health, and Vaccines Minister, Maria Caufield. The letter implores the Ministers to intervene in the proposed change to the start date of the Flu Vaccination Service.

Pharmacies have agreed appointments for well over 100,000 people to receive their flu vaccination in September. Those people, like the pharmacy sector are now in limbo. We need clarity so that patients and pharmacies can plan.

Vaccination is one of the most important interventions made by the NHS. Ensuring high uptake is a priority for everyone involved. It is important that disruptions to final stage planning do not impact this. Patients have expectations as a result of year-on-year NHS campaigning. Any change, and the reasons for this, must be communicated clearly and quickly.

Changes to the start date, after many thousands of patients have appointments booked, will create a huge amount of work for pharmacies. Pharmacy teams are already stretched, and this adds another unexpected burden. Up to 25% of pharmacy NHS flu vaccines are provided in September. Compressing the flu season risks the capacity available to deliver for the population.

Ultimately, it is important that healthcare reflects the latest evidence. CCA members will, as always, do their upmost to ensure patient needs are met and that they receive the best possible care.

CCA members are receiving thousands of vaccination appointment requests every day. This is accelerating as we get closer to the originally expected start date. There is an urgent need for a decision, so that plans can be confirmed or amended.

Community pharmacy offers an accessible and convenient place for patients to receive vaccinations. As the winter months approach and illnesses becomes more prevalent, vaccines are critical to supporting community health. NHS England must reflect upon concerns and begin the programme as intended at the start of September. This will ensure pharmacy teams can deliver maximum value to the NHS, the taxpayer, and the patient.

Dr Nick Thayer, Head of Policy at the CCA said:

“Community pharmacy offers an amazing vaccination service to patients, which has grown annually since initial commissioning. Every year planning starts before Christmas, considering the required workforce, logistics, and predicted patient need. Community pharmacies want to provide the best service for their patients to protect them and their loved ones against influenza.

It is too late to make fundamental changes to the flu programme. It risks vaccine uptake, whilst putting intolerable pressure on already stretched pharmacies and pharmacy teams. NHSE must reflect upon this and begin the programme as intended at the start of September.”

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