The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has argued that commissioning a wider range of NHS vaccinations from pharmacies ‘could lead to increased vaccination levels’.

This came in its response to NHS England’s market engagement on the future of vaccination services to develop a future strategy, in which PSNC backed proposals to expand vaccination services in pharmacies.

PSNC highlighted the accessibility of community pharmacies, which often have longer opening hours than other parts of primary care, and argued their physical location ‘at the heart of local communities means they are in a strong position to reach out to the less well-served members of the public living in their area’.

Durham University estimates from 2014 suggested that 89.2% of the population has access to a community pharmacy within a 20-minute walk, it pointed out.

PSNC also underlined how pharmacies during the pandemic have been able to provided Covid-19 and flu vaccinations off-premises, undertake outreach work in places of worship and community venues, and use the skills of their staff to maximise engagement and reduce health inequalities.

Community pharmacies also having a direct phone line meant that patients who were not able to use the National Booking Service could book appointments and get answers to questions or concerns over the phone, it said.

Pharmacies were also able to use the relationships they had with local communities and their positions of trust to address vaccine hesitancy.

‘Taking the convenience of the community pharmacy vaccination offer, aligned with the ability to also engage with less well served groups in the population, we believe pharmacies are well placed to become a prime location for the provision of a wide range of NHS vaccination programmes,’  PSNC said.

However, it identified barriers to achieving including interoperability between IT systems and the inflexibility of the ImmForm vaccine distribution system. ImmForm is a vaccine resources website, from which community pharmacies are currently excluded from, as well as

PSNC suggested that NHS England and other organisational bodies discuss opportunities for distributing centrally procured vaccines to pharmacies through contracts with a pharmaceutical wholesaler, as well as explore an IT system which would allow the NHS to access real-time data.

However, PSNC said that any additional services could only be considered with additional remuneration to ensure services were adequately resourced.

Alastair Buxton, director of NHS services at PSNC said: ‘We’ve always known, and the evidence supports this, that community pharmacies are one of the most popular and accessible places for people to receive a range of vaccinations.

‘The NHS was slow to take advantage of this at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, so we welcome this consultation from them to bring together a wide range of views on the topic.

‘In the longer-term, if the right funding and support is in place, many pharmacies could help deliver a much wider range of NHS vaccination programmes – giving the public the convenience and service that they want, and taking pressure off our general practice colleagues. It makes perfect sense, and we look forward to the NHS response to this consultation.’

Both Pfizer UK’s head of vaccines and community pharmacy membership organisation Numark have argued for more delivery of vaccination services through pharmacies in recent years.

However, some London pharmacies have recently said that they are ‘paying out of their own pocket’ to deliver the polio vaccination programme because of the increased time needed to vaccinate children.