Labour party leader Sir Keir Starmer is calling on the Government to deploy all community pharmacies to deliver a 24/7 Covid vaccination programme by the end of February.
Sir Starmer has urged ministers to consider a 24/7 approach to accelerate the national vaccination programme, so that it is possible to ‘match the nation’s ambition’ for Britain to be the first country in the world to roll-out the vaccine to the entire population.
He said that England’s 11,500 community pharmacies should be at the centre of the 24/7 programme so to guarantee vaccines can be delivered on every high street across the country.
NHS England has so far confirmed the involvement of 200 pharmacies in the programme.
Sir Starmer said: ‘The whole country wants this rollout to succeed. We were the first to get the vaccine and if we get this right and pull together, I know we can be the first country to roll it out successfully.
‘To do that, the Government needs to match the nation’s ambition with a 24/7 roll-out which harnesses all the expertise and dedication our country has to offer.’
He added: ‘Every high street has a pharmacy and I want to see every possible pharmacy deployed to help.’
This comes after Prime Minister Boris Johnson suggested potential plans to launch a 24/7 vaccination service.
Speaking on Question Time yesterday (13 January), Mr Johnson said that he was ‘absolutely up’ for bringing in a 24/7 vaccination service.
However, he added that ‘most people want to get vaccinated in the daytime, and also most people who are doing the vaccinations want to give them in the daytime, but there may be circumstances in which that would help’.
‘Very challenging’ to deliver 24/7
Sandra Gidley, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), said bringing more community pharmacies on board as the vaccination programme rolls out would be ‘more logical’ than a 24/7 service.
‘We all want to see priority groups, including pharmacists and their teams, vaccinated as quickly as possible, but providing a 24/7 NHS vaccination service would be very challenging,’ she said.
‘Many thousands of NHS workers are ill with Covid or self-isolating, so staffing round-the-clock vaccinations would be an issue. The staff we do have are already working flat out and facing stress and burnout.
She added: ‘Bringing more community pharmacies into the vaccination programme as it rolls out to increase capacity would seem a more logical option.’
‘It’s very encouraging to see the recognition from all parties of the vital role pharmacy is playing in delivering vaccinations and health services to the public during the pandemic.’
It said: ‘Community pharmacy sites will start to deliver vaccines from mid-January, offering bookings through the National Booking Service. This will help improve access through primary care to as many of the population as possible.
‘The early community pharmacy sites will be able to offer significant numbers of appointments. Community pharmacies are integral parts of local communities and will be accessible and approachable places from which to deliver vaccination.’