GP flu jab competition giving way to 'partnership,' says LPC chief

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GP flu jab competition giving way to 'partnership,' says LPC chief

Exclusive: A London local pharmaceutical committee chief has said that during the 2021-22 flu vaccination programme she has seen little to no competition between community pharmacies and GP surgeries, marking a contrast with previous years.

Kensington Chelsea & Westminster LPC chief Rekha Shah said in a February 2 interview with Pharmacy Network News that instead of competition, pharmacies in her area have reported “a more equal partnership, a collaborative working model… it has been really successful”.

While previous years have seen reports of some GP practices in England resorting to scare tactics to discourage patients from getting their jab in a pharmacy, Ms Shah said that the decision in 2020-21 to begin holding weekly meetings at ICS/CCG and borough levels involving pharmacies as well as GPs has paid dividends in the current flu season.

Stakeholders have “been able to identify right from the beginning who’s got stock, what stock there is, where to send patients to if they don’t have it,” she said, adding that the weekly meetings have helped “find ways and means to work together”.

“Year on year it has improved slowly but this year it has improved greatly, so much so that it has been much more like a partnership – which was what was needed from the beginning of the service for the benefit of the public as well as the NHS,” said Ms Shah, who was instrumental in setting up and overseeing the 2012 London flu vaccination pharmacy pilot that helped inform the national roll out.

She said that while London typically underperforms on vaccinations compared to the rest of the UK due to a more “mobile” population, “this year, I will say we’ve had some of the best practice and no issues, no complaints from pharmacies about neighbouring practices”.

This working model has helped contribute to a high performance from pharmacies in the 2021-22 flu campaign, she said, with London pharmacies providing a total of 347,500 vaccinations as of February 2, as recorded on Sonar – a 64 per cent increase on the previous year.

The north west London area, which accounts for a quarter of all London vaccinations, also saw flu jabs rise by around 65 per cent, she revealed.

Statistics published on the PSNC website show that as of February 15, a total of 4.8 million flu jabs have been recorded in England in the current programme, a significant increase on the 2.6 million jabs given the previous year.

Patients are “very happy” with the service they have received in pharmacies, Ms Shah said, adding that word of mouth has played a key role alongside the Covid immunisation programme: “It’s becoming a norm for people.”

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