Community pharmacies will be able to permanently run vaccination services from premises other than their registered premises, the UK Government has announced, when a legislation change is passed.

After a public consultation, which ran for three weeks in December, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has said it plans to make permanent a temporary measure introduced at the height of the pandemic to maintain the pace and scale of the vaccine rollout.

The measure — which has allowed pharmacies to provide Covid vaccinations in off-site locations such as in car parks, sports stadiums, town halls and marquees — was put in place by NHS England and Improvement in August 2020, and was due to end on 1 April 2022.

There are now plans to lay the amendments before Parliament ‘in early 2022’.

Results of the consultation, published yesterday (26 January), said this flexibility has been used on a ‘regular basis by the majority of community pharmacy run Covid-19 vaccination sites, where the main site was located away from their normal registered premises’.

‘It has also allowed many hundreds of pharmacies to offer pop-up clinics, in particular supporting groups of patients where bookings were not able to be made on the health service booking system of the relevant country where there were particular infection clusters or in locations where there were clusters of unvaccinated patients,’ it added.

This approach was first used in the 2020-2021 seasonal influenza programme to support Government plans to increase the number of flu vaccines given.

It ‘absolutely makes sense'

The Government said that the NHS’s capacity to administer any Covid-19 and flu vaccines going forward would be ‘severely constrained’ if the change was not made.

Analysis of the consultation responses revealed that the majority of NHS, health service delivery and social care professionals (76%) agreed with the proposal.

Pete Horrocks, superintendent pharmacist of the 70-branch Knights Pharmacy group, has made use of the temporary measure, having set up flu vaccine clinics this year in schools and a pub.

He told The Pharmacist that he believed it ‘absolutely makes sense’ to make permanent the temporary measure.

‘It is a welcomed step forward, seeing as community pharmacists are ideally placed to respond to needs of the community and have the experience and knowledge to offer mobile clinics where needed,’ he said.

'Pharmacy could play a much larger role in future vaccination programmes'

Alastair Buxton, PSNC's director of NHS services, also welcomed the decision to retain the flexibility for community pharmacy contractors to provide off-site vaccinations.

‘The sector's amazing performance in delivering both flu and Covid vaccinations this winter has helped demonstrate the way in which community pharmacy could play a much larger role in future vaccination programmes, and making off-site provision a permanent feature further supports this,’ he said.