Pharmacy owners have a legal basis to seek compensation for losses incurred due to the change of start date of the NHS flu vaccination service in England, the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has said.

It has written to NHS England (NHSE) chief executive Amanda Pritchard today to warn of possible legal claims against the commissioner.

Following advice from lawyers, the NPA aims to send a message about ‘the need for due process in the future’, it said.

And Mark Lyonette, NPA chief executive, suggested that the NPA hopes to persuade NHSE to revert the launch of this year’s flu vaccination service back to its original September start date.

He said that NHSE ‘should expect to be held responsible for financial losses incurred – including wasted stock, additional storage costs and additional staffing costs – resulting from the late announcement to delay the NHS flu service.’

Mr Lyonette added: ‘Even at this late stage, NHS England could choose to revert to usual practice, in order to maximise the effectiveness of this year’s flu campaign.  However, we think it is right to warn them of the possible consequences if they choose not to do so.

‘Whilst welcoming the recent concession which allows pre-booked appointments to go ahead, the NPA still maintains that it is a mistake to throw a previously successful NHS scheme into confusion by delaying the start date.’

He added that the NPA would help its members determine whether they have suffered a loss and have a realistic prospect of a successful claim for compensation.

In the letter to NHSE, the NPA said that pharmacy owners have, at their own risk, procured stock with a legitimate expectation that the service would be commissioned as normal.

The NPA has also previously said that the last-minute change was ‘highly demotivating for hard pressed pharmacy contractors who have proven themselves to be effective at delivering health protecting services’, some of whom were ‘already at a financial cliff edge’.

Earlier this month NHSE announced that its flu vaccination service would begin in October, along with the Covid vaccination programme.

But it said that where ‘firm commitments and appointments have already been made’, community pharmacies will be allowed to submit payment claims for eligible patients given the flu vaccination in September.

NHSE told The Pharmacist that it has received the NPA's letter and is considering its response.