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Pharmacists prioritising a safety-first approach to flu vaccinations

Following the recent publication of the PDA’s flu vaccination services FAQ document for community pharmacy, many members have been in touch to welcome this important guidance and to share some of their frontline experiences.

Mon 4th October 2021 The PDA

The community pharmacy flu vaccination service is already in high demand this winter. Many patients are engaging with national vaccination programmes because of the Covid-19 pandemic, and the opportunity for those in at-risk groups to protect themselves against the flu virus with a free NHS jab.

Patients accessing the NHS service, combined with those who are ineligible for a free vaccination but that access a jab through a paid-for private offering, can see community pharmacists asked to provide high numbers of vaccinations on any given day. In the 2020/21 season, community pharmacy delivered around 2.6 million NHS jabs.

While community pharmacy vaccinations can be a great use of pharmacists’ skills and the convenient location of a community pharmacy is preferable for many patients, high demand does raise concerns about safe staffing levels. The professional responsibilities for the safe operation of the wider essential elements of the contract remain the same. Sufficient staffing is critical to ensure that other regulated activities can also run effectively without disruption to patients or having a negative impact on safety. The PDA has long advocated for a second pharmacist in busy pharmacies to support the provision of these important additional services.

A fundamental part of the role of the Responsible Pharmacist (RP) is the ability to make decisions about the safe and effective operation of the pharmacy and to plan around other activities and staffing considerations. Unfortunately, this is not always the reality, and in the case of flu vaccination services, pharmacists are often faced with little or no visibility of flu vaccination bookings in advance.

In just one example, a locum arrived to find 35 flu vaccination bookings and no additional pharmacist support. During their shift, this would require them to deliver around one flu vaccination every 10 minutes on average, leaving little or no time for other patient interactions, or safety checks on prescriptions.

In the case in point, the pharmacist continued to provide the NHS vaccinations booked in, and the private bookings were rearranged for another time. This demonstrates a measured, safety-first approach, ensuring that those in at-risk groups received their vaccination while ensuring other, essential activities could take place. Any inconvenience for those who had their appointments rearranged could, and should, have been foreseen and avoided.

Contractors are responsible for forward planning around resource requirements and often, centralised diary management systems. However, pharmacists need to have more opportunities for involvement in the process. To avoid issues, contractors should ensure that pharmacists, whether locum or employed, are aware and in agreement with the details of proposed vaccination arrangements in advance.

The PDA will support members to carry out their responsibilities under the RP regulations. Please find the PDA Flu FAQs below. You can also call the PDA service centre on  0121 694 7000 or email for further advice.

Download the Flu vaccination FAQs below

thumbnail of Flu vaccination service FAQs

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