MPs support the use of pharmacy more in the fight against flu

Clare Kerr, Head of External Affairs at Celesio UK, which includes LloydsPharmacy

A cross party group of MPs has recently advocated wider use of community pharmacy for the delivery of flu vaccinations[1].

Using the LPC London scheme as a successful example of where pharmacies across London have been commissioned to deliver NHS flu vaccinations, officers of the All Party Pharmacy Group, Sir Kevin Barron MP and Oliver Colvile MP, wrote to all MPs highlighting the benefits and need for pharmacy to be commissioned to deliver this service across the country. The service in London has experienced 1,300 pharmacies providing over 100,000 people with flu vaccinations since October.

Outside of London, there is patchy coverage of commissioned services for flu, in some areas they do not exist at all and, in others, pharmacies are restricted as to who can receive a jab provided by them on behalf of the NHS.

At a recent meeting in Parliament MPs heard that targets set by the NHS to get the at-risk group of people, those who if they caught flu could suffer serious health complications, vaccinated are not being met. This could have serious consequences to their health and a knock-on effect to an already over-burdened NHS if a flu pandemic was to occur.

Community pharmacy is an under-used resource in many areas of the country, but can provide health services, including flu vaccinations. This could have the potential to have a significant impact on the health and wellbeing of the local community, as well as be a benefit to the local NHS services.

Pharmacists are highly qualified and many are able to deliver vaccinations; commissioning a flu vaccination service within pharmacy has shown to improve uptake rates in at-risk groups significantly. The reason for this is predominantly about accessibility and choice, with longer opening times, convenient locations and flexibility, a community pharmacy service can compliment flu clinics delivered by GPs or nurses, which traditionally appeal to the over 65 population.

Pharmacy teams within LloydsPharmacy are knowledgeable and passionate, and offer advice and treatment on a number of ailments on a daily basis, they are able to engage with a vast number of patients, and explain to those within the at-risk group the importance of having a flu vaccination, and what the consequences could be if they do catch flu.

It has been widely reported over recent years the stresses and strains the NHS experiences over winter months; commissioning community pharmacy to deliver flu vaccinations could prevent a number of patients suffering with the flu using NHS services and adding to the already existing pressures.

NHS England’s recent Five Year Forward View sets out a vision of a better NHS, and talks of changes needed around prevention, breaking down barriers to the way that care is provided, and people taking control of their own healthcare.  Wider use of community pharmacy to deliver services such as flu vaccination fulfils these aspirations.