GP surgeries should send over-65s who need to get a flu jab to community pharmacies if they are not able to provide a new type of vaccination, a doctors’ representative body has told our sister publication Pulse.

British Medical Association (BMA) GP committee chair Dr Richard Vautrey told Pulse that practices should, in the first instance, advise patients to return for their vaccination when the adjuvalent trivalent flu vaccine (aTIV) is in stock or signpost them to another provider, such as pharmacies.

Dr Vautrey said: ‘Provision of QIV to over-65s is an option of last resort and should only be offered in exceptional circumstances, and when aTIV is not available and is highly unlikely to become available locally.’

The comments come after NHS England published guidance last month on the 2018/19 flu vaccination programme delivery, which recommends GPs and pharmacists to tell patients to ‘return later in the season’ if the aTIV is out of stock.

Earlier this month, an Oxfordshire GP practice encouraged its patients to get their flu vaccines from them after it lost custom to community pharmacies last year.


‘Signposting to pharmacy’


Doncaster Local Medical Committee (LMC) medical secretary and BMA GP committee member Dr Dean Eggitt told Pulse: ‘We can’t signpost [patients] to another practice because we can’t vaccinate our non-registered patients, so essentially we’ll be signposting to pharmacy.’

Dr Eggitt also argued that there is a risk for patients to find themselves without vaccination at all if they were sent to find their own provider.

He said: ‘It introduces a new element of risk if you say to a patient “you need a flu vaccine, can you go find it?”. The risk is that they won’t go find it and then they’ll never get it.’

According to NHS England guidance, the manufacturer Seqirus is currently experiencing vaccine shortages. Pharmacies and GP surgeries will receive ‘three batches’ of aTIV over three months – 40% in September, 20% in October and 40% in November – it said.


Pharmacy input


Until 2015, adults could only get their seasonal flu vaccine in GP practices. As part of the 2015/16 community pharmacy funding settlement, NHS England agreed that pharmacies could start providing the service for at-risk patients, including the over-65s and pregnant women.

BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul then criticised the move, arguing that there was ‘little evidence’ delivering the service through pharmacy increased uptake among this category of patients.


A version of this story was originally published on our sister publication website Pulse.