Community Pharmacy England has coordinated a letter to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Steve Barclay, seeking his immediate intervention to prevent a delay to the start of the flu immunisation programme.

We have joined with CSL Seqirus, Healthcare Distribution Association and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society to warn the Government of the likely severe impact on public health and vaccination uptake rates if the flu vaccination service does not begin on 1st September as in previous years. The joint letter also highlights a wider concern around the ability of primary care providers to cope with winter pressures if the service begins later in the year.

Since news broke that NHS England now has the power to set a delayed start for the flu vaccination service and the commissioner was considering an October launch, we have been working to influence their final decision.

The plans made by pharmacy owners – as well as vaccines manufacturers and distributors, and other healthcare providers – were all with the expectation that flu vaccines would be offered from September, based on the approach taken for the last seven years and supported by previous NHS messaging to the public to get vaccinated as soon as possible in the autumn.

As well as writing to Ministers to warn them about the numerous implications of this issue, we have been briefing Parliamentarians on the issue and know that MPs are writing to Health Ministers to raise the sector’s concerns. The national media has also highlighted the potential chaos, with fears that flu vaccines could be wasted, and we have issued statements to make our concerns clear.

Whilst we continue to work influence the NHS decision at a national level, we would like to thank LPCs and pharmacy owners for supporting this by contacting their own MPs. Anyone who hasn’t already done so can use our template email and briefing to write to your MP:

Urgent MP Briefing: NHS Flu Vaccinations

Template email to MP: Urgent support needed on NHS flu vaccinations

Alastair Buxton, Director of NHS Services at Community Pharmacy England, said:

“A delay to the start of the flu vaccination service to October would be a disaster for many community pharmacies who will have to undo their planning and try to squeeze in thousands more vaccinations into later months, all while trying to juggle the ongoing major challenges facing all community pharmacies. It makes no sense for the NHS to impose this added, and entirely avoidable, pressure on pharmacies.

We have not had any final decision about the start date of the service communicated to us and are continuing to use all channels to press for common sense to prevail and for the service to start from September. Thanks to everyone who has been supporting this effort.”

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