Pharmacy bodies have called for 2024/25 winter vaccination programme planning to include key parties such as community pharmacy ‘at an appropriately early stage’.

Community Pharmacy England (CPE) and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) have joined the NHS Confederation, the Healthcare Distribution Association, vaccine provider CSL Seqirus and the Dispensing Doctors’ Association in writing to the secretary of state for health and social care on the issue this week.

They said they wanted to ‘avoid last minute unnecessary changes that cause confusion, disrupt deployment and potentially impact vaccine uptake rates’, given that planning and ordering stock was already underway for next winter.

‘We would like to ensure that all key parties can contribute to the planning of the 2024/25 winter vaccination programme at an appropriately early stage and we hope you will be supportive of that,’ the letter to Steve Barclay added.

The groups offered to meet with him to discuss the matter further.

This comes after the start date for flu vaccinations this year was changed to October – although NHS England said that pharmacies would be paid for September flu jabs already booked – and then changed back to September along with an earlier start for Covid vaccinations.

Alastair Buxton, director of NHS Services at CPE, which coordinated the letter to Mr Barclay, described the ‘shambolic start’ to the vaccination programme this year, which he said ‘caused unnecessary work and hassle for pharmacy owners and their teams’.

‘This sort of policy to-ing and fro-ing must not be repeated, and we hope to begin constructive conversations with NHS and the government very soon to help next year’s programme run more smoothly for all,’ he added.

The government was approached for comment.