The roll-out of the flu jab service to community pharmacies demonstrates the “valuable role that pharmacy can play as part of an integrated healthcare system”, a professor has said.

The comment was made by Professor Claire Anderson, of the School of Pharmacy at The University of Nottingham, following a joint research project with Boots.

The study aimed to establish who was taking advantage of flu vaccination services within a large community pharmacy chain and whether the new service addressed the health inequalities agenda.

The results showed that pharmacy flu vaccinations are highly accessed by patients from all socio-demographic areas and are particularly common with carers, frontline healthcare workers and those of working age.

The study also revealed that the timing of access shows that this is likely to be due to the convenience and accessibility of pharmacies.

Professor Anderson said: “There is a recognised need to continue to drive uptake flu vaccinations for patients in at risk and hard to reach groups, but achieving the level required is challenging and requires innovative thinking and new approaches.

“Pharmacy provides an accessible and convenient place to have a flu vaccination.

“This latest research demonstrates a valuable role that pharmacy can play as part of an integrated healthcare system.”

Only around 52% of at risk patients were vaccinated in England during the 2014-2015 season, against a target of 75%.

To find out why this was the case pharmacists were requested to ask patients who received a flu vaccine between October 2014 and March 2015 to complete a questionnaire.

Marc Donovan, chief pharmacist at Boots UK, said: “This latest research not only demonstrates that community pharmacy flu vaccination services complement those provided by GPs but also that there is a real opportunity for pharmacists to further support vaccination services, particularly in helping to protect those patients who are in at risk groups from infections.

“By vaccinating people in the community, reducing the incidence of flu and susceptibility to secondary bacterial chest infections, we are protecting a diminishing and valuable, antibiotic resource.

The Influenza vaccination can help to prevent ill health and reduce hospital admissions with research already showing that there is a need to protect an increasing number of at-risk patients.

They include patients suffering from long-term health conditions under the age of 65, long stay care home residents and healthcare professionals.

These at risk patients include those who are under 65 years of age and suffer from other long term medical conditions, are long stay home care residents or healthcare professionals.

Rob Darracott, chief executive at Pharmacy Voice, said: “Community pharmacy now plays a vital role in supporting the flu vaccination programme.

“It is fantastic to see from this paper that so many at risk people are being helped by this service, particularly helping busy healthcare professionals and carers who appear to appreciate the convenience of extended hours and no appointment necessary that pharmacies such as Boots UK offer.”

Completed surveys were collected from 1,741 patients from 55 pharmacies conducting private and NHS vaccinations across three localities representing 18.9% of vaccinations that were carried out within these pharmacies.