London pharmacies complete over 40,000 flu jabs in three weeks

Community pharmacy teams across London have completed over 40,000 flu vaccinations in the first three weeks since the vaccination programme went live on 08 September.

This winter is the first time community pharmacies across London, and the rest of England, have been able to offer NHS flu jabs as part of the first ever national pharmacy vaccination scheme. This is making it easier than ever for the public to get a flu jab.

All adults aged 65 years and over, and those aged 18 years or over and in clinical risk groups, can receive a free of charge NHS flu jab at community pharmacies across the country, often without the need for an appointment. People in at-risk groups include pregnant women and those with certain medical conditions including asthma and diabetes.

Some pharmacists have offered flu jabs privately and as part of local NHS schemes in the past, but this is the first time that a national service has been agreed. Pharmacists will be using the same vaccination as those offered by GPs and they will be required to notify GPs when they have vaccinated people.

Sue Sharpe, chief executive of PSNC, which agreed the pharmacy service with the NHS, says: “Community pharmacy provision of NHS flu vaccinations means many eligible adult patients will have greater access to this service. Many people may choose pharmacy because they are unable to attend GP clinics, due to factors such as their work hours, and because they can visit pharmacies in a variety of locations and without the need to book an appointment.

“Community pharmacists are looking forward to taking on this challenge and we are keen to work with colleagues in general practice to help ensure that as many eligible people as possible are vaccinated this year. The national service is an important step forward for community pharmacy as we expand its provision of care and public health services alongside the dispensing of medicines.”

Rob Darracott, chief executive of Pharmacy Voice, an association of trade bodies representing community pharmacy owners says: “Over recent years community pharmacy has proved its worth as the right place to help increase the numbers of high risk groups having the flu vaccination. Success stories such as London, which offered 116,000 NHS flu jabs last year, and are well set to surpass that figure this year, have helped convince the NHS that a national service is in patients’ best interest.

“Community pharmacy is the most accessible healthcare location in England, with over 96% of people able to reach one of the 11,500 pharmacies within 20 minutes either by walking or on public transport. The flu vaccine is the best protection we have against an illness that can kill, and we hope that pharmacy can continue to increase its important role protecting many from harm each year. Pharmacists are qualified healthcare professionals with five years training, and they can offer advice on a range of other minor ailments that are more common over the colder months.”

Sandra Gidley, Chair, Royal Pharmaceutical Society English Pharmacy Board, said: “Each winter tens of thousands are hospitalised because of flu and a small proportion will die because of the infection. Flu is a nasty virus that is particularly dangerous for older people and those with long term conditions. I would urge those who are offered the free flu vaccination to visit their local pharmacist early in the flu season. If you care for someone who is elderly or disabled, speak to your pharmacist about having a flu jab along with the person you care for. Pharmacies open at weekends, conveniently located and you get exactly the same quality of care as you would from your GP. We will be working with GPs so more people get vaccinated, reducing the incidence of flu.  I would also encourage all pharmacists to be vaccinated to protect themselves, their patients and their families.”

Notes to editors

Pharmacy Voice is an association of trade bodies which brings together and speaks on behalf of community pharmacy. Pharmacy Voice is formed by the three largest community pharmacy owner associations. Together we are a stronger, unified voice for community pharmacy.

PSNC promotes and supports the interests of all NHS community pharmacies in England and is recognised by the Secretary of State for Health as the body that represents NHS pharmacy contractors. The committee works to develop the NHS community pharmacy service to enable community pharmacies to offer an increased range of high quality and fully funded services that meet the needs of their local communities and provide value and good health outcomes for the NHS and the public.  PSNC also works closely with Local Pharmaceutical Committees (LPCs) to support their role as the local NHS representative organisations for community pharmacies.

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) is the professional body for pharmacists in Great Britain. We represent all sectors of pharmacy in Great Britain and lead and support the development of the pharmacy profession including the advancement of science, practice, education and knowledge in pharmacy. In addition, we promote the profession’s policies and views to a range of external stakeholders in a number of different forums.

More details on the annual programme for flu vaccination published earlier this year is included in the annual flu letter.

Further information on the community pharmacy service is available in the summary guidance from NHS Employers and PSNC.

Community pharmacists are regulated healthcare professionals. Their training includes a four-year degree along with a year working in practice followed by examinations. Pharmacists are experts in medicines and are regulated by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC). There are around 11,700 community pharmacies in England and in 2014/15 at least 5,000 of these were known to have signed up to offer local flu vaccination services after undertaking the required training. More than 99% of people living in areas of the highest deprivation are within a 20 minute walk of a community pharmacy. It is thought that around 99% of community pharmacies now have private consultation rooms. Pharmacies use these to provide a range of public health and other services including services to help people to get the most benefit from their medicines and to lead healthier lives.

For more information please contact Chris Ford on chris.ford@pharmacyvoice.pl / 020 3405 2810