At a time when collaboration is needed more than ever, are GPs right to feel territorial over the vaccination service, asks The Pharmacist’s reporter Léa Legraien
‘Less safe’, ‘frustrating’, ‘undermining’. These are some of the words used by some GPs to describe how they feel about community pharmacists delivering the seasonal flu vaccination service to at-risk patients.
In recent years, the relationship between pharmacists and GPs has tightened, creating new opportunities for joint working such as the introduction of practice pharmacists and the launch of the electronic prescription service (EPS).
It seems that most GPs are more than happy to collaborate with pharmacists when it comes to having them in the practice, relieving some of the daily pressures they go through.
But give pharmacists the opportunity to free up GP time — as well as earning extra money — by letting them provide the flu service in the pharmacy, and they seem to forget all about the positives of collaboration.
Don’t get me wrong. I do appreciate why GPs are trying to get as many patients as possible to have their flu jabs at their own practices, given the financial constraints they are also faced with. After all, even if a practice is the local place for patients to go to get treated without reaching for their wallet, it is still a business.
But at the end of the day, both GPs and pharmacists are here to serve their patients. Ultimately, the emphasis should be not on where a patient obtains their flu jab, but rather on making sure they have one in the first place.
Pharmacists are hardly in the wrong for delivering such a vital service, nor are they ‘stealing’ patients from GP practices. In any case, GPs still receive a higher fee for each flu vaccination they deliver, with £9.80 per administered dose compared to £9.48 for pharmacists.
Just like GPs and other healthcare professionals, pharmacists have been through their share of tough times including the funding cuts, medicine shortages and difficulties in recruiting new staff.
If anything, they too deserve their slice of the cake without having to face GPs backlash over the provision of the flu vaccine. It is time these GPs realise pharmacists are not trying to undermine them and are working towards the same goal – improving patients’ health and wellbeing.
So GPs, why don’t you end this pointless fight over flu jabs and shift your focus onto what’s best for patients, not your bottom line?