NHS England has asked community pharmacists and GPs to ‘continue to support each other’ during the Covid vaccination programme.

It comes as some GPs have spoken out against the expansion of Covid vaccine deliveries to pharmacies, saying that they have the capacity to deliver much more than they are receiving.

In a primary care bulletin today (26 January), NHS England said there had already been some ‘fantastic collaboration’ between GP and pharmacy sites and called for this to continue.

‘The Essential Service for general practice and the Local Enhanced Service for community pharmacy mirror each other as closely as possible, the item of service fee and training requirements are the same, clinical supervision is required for both, and both are working to the same standard operating procedures,’ the bulletin said.

‘By working together, we can ensure capacity and resilience in the system so that all communities can get access to the vaccination as quickly as possible,’ it added.

Vaccinations for frontline staff

Among the concerns raised by GPs over pharmacy involvement in the rollout is that it is unfair that the pharmacy contract allows individual pharmacies to sign up to receive vaccine orders directly while practices can only get supply via PCN hubs, and that pharmacies ‘lack access’ to the data about the most at risk patients, which GPs have in their patient records.

But as the Pharmacist reported last week (21 January), pharmacists and pharmacy bodies have rejected the criticism - and continue to call for greater pharmacy involvement in the programme.

NHS England has so far commissioned 200 pharmacy-led vaccination sites, all of which are due to go live by the end of January as more vaccine supplies become available.

Today’s bulletin, signed by Kiren Collison, GP and deputy medical director for primary care, and Ned Naylor, director of primary care provider transformation, said the pharmacy sites are also being used to try and speed up the vaccination of frontline health and social care staff.

‘We are also trying to expedite the vaccination of frontline health and social care workers by allowing pharmacy local vaccination services to vaccinate this cohort,’ it said.

‘Significant contribution’ of pharmacy

NHS England’s chief pharmaceutical officer Keith Ridge also wrote a joint letter with the GPhC to the profession last week (21 January) thanking teams for their ‘significant contribution’ to the UK’s Covid response.

‘We know that many of you will play a vital role in the Covid-19 vaccination programme, while others are working hard to continue providing essential services and care to patients and the public’, Dr Ridge said, adding that the efforts of pharmacy staff were greatly appreciated.

He added: ‘We also want to reassure you that frontline pharmacy workers are among the high priority groups identified by the JCVI for receiving a vaccine and the health and care services across the UK are working hard to get this to you as soon as possible.’