The Government needs to reduce the red tape for pharmacies and ‘suspend unnecessary box ticking’ to allow pharmacies to speed up the delivery of Covid-19 vaccinations, the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) has said.
It comes after the Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced over the weekend that all over 18s would be offered a booster Covid vaccination by the end of December.
GP surgeries have since been asked by NHS England to prioritise Covid boosters over routine appointments, with CQC inspections already paused and parts of their quality outcomes framework – which determines some practice funding – also suspended.
Dr Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the AIMp, said pharmacies should be treated the same as GPs to speed up the delivery of the vaccinations.
She said: ‘Our members are saying they’re seeing high demand for jabs from people who have not had one so far and for boosters. They like our accessibility, they know they can trust us.
‘Why is the Government not reducing red tape for pharmacies and suspending unnecessary box ticking, allowing us to prioritise patient care and vaccinations? What needs to happen is the government suspending the red tape, give us a level playing field to free up our workforce to support the programme, particularly with the tight deadline to vaccinate everyone by end of this month.
‘Throughout the pandemic we demonstrated agility and resilience and kept our doors open to see patients face to face, we are willing to help so why are we not getting a level playing field so that we can deliver what patients need?’
The RPS added that the Government needs to commit funding, resources and staffing to help meet the ‘ambitious new target’, as well as reducing bureaucracy.
Thorrun Govind, chair of RPS in England, said: ‘Pharmacy teams across the health service have been giving their all and are already at risk of burnout, so the Government and NHS must ensure they commit the funding, resources and staffing to help meet this ambitious new target.
‘Pharmacists are already delivering essential care for patients, so this renewed effort must include making best use of the pharmacy workforce across the health service and re-prioritising workload so that pharmacists across care settings can contribute to the booster campaign.
‘This also means urgently agreeing flexibilities for teams in community pharmacy and the wider NHS, such as rest breaks and pharmacy opening hours, and cutting bureaucracy such as contract or audit requirements so they can focus on what’s needed most.’
The NPA’s director of external and corporate affairs, Gareth Jones, added: ‘In light of the Prime Minister’s announcement on Sunday evening about a further ramping up of the Covid booster programme, we are in touch with NHS officials about the role of pharmacies in this intensified nationwide campaign. Pharmacies have already given millions of Covid jabs, including boosters, and there is potential for many millions more this winter.’
It comes after the Government announced it was consulting on the potential for community pharmacies to permanently run vaccination services from premises other than their registered ones.
Last week, the Prime Minister said that pharmacy teams were ‘amongst some of the heroes of the vaccine rollout’.