Community pharmacy team members in England will now be eligible to receive a free flu vaccine during the 2020/21 vaccine rollout, NHS England and Improvement (NHSE&I) has announced.

This will be the first time that all pharmacy team members — including all patient-facing staff, non-clinical staff and locums — will be able to receive a vaccine as part of the community pharmacy seasonal influenza advanced service.

Previously, it was up to contractors to offer and cover the costs of flu vaccines for their staff.

This means that community pharmacies will be able to claim an Item of Service fee for vaccinating eligible primary care. They will also be able to claim back money in cases where contractors have already vaccinated their staff via other means.

PSNC has been calling for pharmacy staff to be included as a cohort for vaccination in the NHS flu vaccination service for ‘several years’, the body said.

General practice, dentistry and general ophthalmic services are also now eligible for free vaccines under the enhanced general practice and advanced pharmacy flu services.

This year NHSE&I has sought additional funding to vaccinate all eligible primary care contractors, it said in a letter sent to primary care staff yesterday.

Alastair Buxton, director of NHS Services at PSNC said: ‘This is really welcome news for pharmacy contractors and their teams, and it is right that after such a challenging time during the height of the pandemic and ahead of what is expected to be a tough winter, the NHS provides this additional support.

‘For many years, we have asked NHSE&I for pharmacy team members to be eligible for vaccination under the Advanced service and we will continue to push for this to happen on an ongoing basis, to recognise their hard work and dedication in providing their patients and the local population with essential healthcare services.’

Thorrun Govind, Chair of the English Pharmacy board and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), said: ‘RPS called on NHS to do the right thing by pharmacists and their teams by providing them with free flu jabs to protect them during the winter season, in line with their offer to other NHS staff. This is a victory for commonsense.

‘We are delighted the NHS in England has listened and given parity of access to flu vaccination to frontline pharmacy teams, who have played such a vital role in providing healthcare and Covid vaccinations during the pandemic.

‘We’re also very pleased that locum staff are included in this move. No pharmacist or member of their team should be considered dispensable and left out of this important public health initiative.

Community pharmacy and general practice pharmacy teams in Scotland are already included in the NHS Scotland flu vaccination programme this year.