NHS England has invited more pharmacies to apply to become Covid vaccination sites, to help plug the gaps left by current PCN sites opting out and other venues ‘resuming their previous uses’.
The callout is for pharmacies in specific areas of the country and comes as the vaccination programme entered its second phase – cohorts 10 to 12 – this week.
In a letter, sent to pharmacy contractors and local pharmacy committees earlier this week (12 April) and seen by the Pharmacist, NHS England said it was now planning for ‘different preferences and needs as pandemic restrictions are lifted’.
This includes ensuring access to jabs continues where ‘current PCN sites have chosen to opt-out of extending their Covid-19 enhanced service to focus on a return to business-as-usual primary care activities,’ it said.
The letter said all expressions of interest should be submitted by midnight on Sunday 18 April.
The first sites selected from this callout will begin operating as pharmacy-led vaccination sites by May 2021, or as vaccine supply permits.
The last call for expressions of interest was in February when the NHS decided to reduce the requirements for pharmacy-led vaccine sites, allowing pharmacies that could administer up to 400 vaccines to apply.
‘As we enter the next phase of the vaccination programme we have once again assessed where we think we may need more provision from local vaccination services, including some areas where we did not receive suitable expressions of interest in February,’ the letter said.
‘We are therefore extending the February designation process in very specific areas of the country.’
NHS England confirmed in the letter that only pharmacy-led sites within these specific priority areas will be considered.
‘While we’ve taken care to include only areas where there is a realistic opportunity to use a pharmacy-led site, inclusion does not guarantee that a pharmacy-led site will be set up in that area,’ it said.
‘We are working on a mixed model of Covid-19 vaccination provision and services may be commissioned from a pharmacy contractor or other new or existing provider.’
A list of the priority locations can be found here.