Pharmacies in England could briefly close during opening hours in order to help teams cope with the expected high demand for flu vaccinations this winter, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has said.

In a recent update, PSNC announced that it was in discussions with NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) over potential increased flexibility for pharmacies administering the flu programme this year.

The proposed flexibilities include allowing pharmacies to close during the working day in order to ‘focus solely on the provision of flu vaccinations during a proportion of their opening hours’ and being allowed to administer vaccines on the premises outside of their normal hours.

It has also been suggested that pharmacists should be able to vaccinate patients on the pharmacy shop floor - outside of the consultation room - to enable social distancing.

The body is also negotiating whether vaccination premises can be extended to include outdoor facilities such as church halls, car parks and stadiums.

Increased demand

This year’s flu vaccine programme is set to target around 37 million patients – millions more than in previous years - as the Government expands the cohort for who is eligible for the free vaccine.

Last week, the second letter on this year’s programme was sent to contractors and said that community pharmacy teams would be able to administer the flu vaccines to care home residents and staff in care homes during one single visit.

NHS England’s letter also said the age 50-64 cohort, who will be eligible for the free vaccine for the first time this year, will not be able to get immunised until November or December subject to stock availability.

In the letter, NHS England also stressed that it is essential to ‘increase flu vaccination levels for those who are living in the most deprived areas and from BAME communities’.

Some major UK flu manufacturers have already said they may not be able to meet the increased demand for flu vaccines this year, due to the unprecedented demand for the vaccine worldwide.