NHS England has said it is planning to ‘stand up’ some community pharmacy sites for administering Covid vaccines alongside any vaccination programme delivered by general practice.

In a webinar today (18 November) on the Covid vaccination programme, NHS England said general practice had a ‘particularly important role’ to play, but that it was ‘additionally planning’ to ‘stand up’ some community pharmacy sites and set up mass vaccination centres.

‘GPs are likely to want to work with community pharmacies locally to support delivery of the GP enhanced service, this might be through supporting vaccination in care homes or clinical oversight of vaccination clinics,’ a webinar slide seen by the Pharmacist said.

It added: ‘We may also commission community pharmacy providers who can stand up at scale in their own right. As more supply and more vaccinations come on stream this is likely to develop.’

NHS England also said that all primary care providers will need to collaborate with other community vaccination providers, as part of a co-ordinated local approach.

‘Filling gaps in provision’

Speaking in the webinar, Jill Loader, deputy director for pharmacy at NHS England, acknowledged there were ‘lots of questions’ about how community pharmacy might be involved in the programme.

‘We anticipate that we’re going to need as many of the workforce who are trained in vaccination as possible and that community pharmacy will have the opportunity to get involved, either through mass vaccination sites or trust sites, or the PCN sites that will be providing these, because they will obviously need to vaccinate for long hours as explained,’ she said.

Ms Loader also said that there might be some areas where ‘we don’t have the provision we need’ and NHS England ‘might look to fill some of that’ with community pharmacy providers.

However, she said that NHS England do not anticipate that ‘most community pharmacy contractors will be getting involved with that’ because the ‘same kind of considerations’ that were mentioned earlier in the webinar, around vaccine storage and vaccinating at scale, would need to be taken into account.

She added: ‘Down the line, we expect there to be other vaccines available and as Ed [Waller] said around general practice, we might well look at changing the model as the vaccination characteristics change. So, this is not the model forever, this is trying to anticipate the initial vaccines that we might have into the supply chain and we will be continually reviewing that.’

Last week, PSNC announced that NHS England and Improvement (NHSE&I) is due to publish a community pharmacy enhanced service for Covid-19 vaccinations ‘shortly’.