Stick ’em up. Or don’t. Are London’s pharmacies being held up — at needlepoint — in a duel to vaccinate? They say an unfair and counterproductive advantage is being conferred on doctors’ hubs.

29 January 2021 By Paul Martin

Hundreds of doses of vaccine line the shelves of a fridge in a London pharmacy after a very frustrating week. It’s the majority of the doses the NHS sent the pharmacy.

 The problem is not a lack of supplies. It’s a lack of patients.

Inside a pharmacy fridge, 260 anti-Covid vaccine doses lie unused.

‘The National Health Service is texting patients to offer three places they can go to for their first vaccination — but have not listed us at all … even though we are far nearer than any of the GP hubs, and our usual patients want to come to us,’ a frustrated pharmacist told Correspondent.World.

The NHS had demanded that any pharmacist who joined the plan to roll out vaccines had to be able to do over one thousand injections a week.  One of the pharmacies who’ve joined so far had its deliveries for the week — only to discover that its expected two hundred-a-day flow of patients was reduced on Thursday to 55. 

Another London pharmacist reported ‘just a trickle’.

‘We had to make a special space for the vaccinations and hire three extra vaccinators,’ he said.

‘One of my regular clients says she and her husband had to travel to the only GP hub she was able to book at — by taxi.  It waited and took them home costing them fifty to sixty pounds.  They live right near this pharmacy.

‘I thought the whole idea of the NHS is to give people choice.’

The NHS had already provided pharmacies with some of the IT and with PPE, which. he pointed out, was being under-used.

The pharmacists spoke on condition of anonymity, for fear of antagonising the NHS.

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Both pharmacists said they suspected that GP hubs were trying to do as many vaccinations as possible because they were being paid an average of £12-50 per jab.   

Pharmacists would get the same fee, but their cost per patient would usually be much higher — especially because of the low through-put.
Another complaint by both pharmacists was that GP hubs were giving vaccines to people who were not in the groups who currently are supposed to get it. 

‘We’ve had people in the sixty to sixty-nine age category, without any underlying conditions, who’ve walked in here and told us they had the jab at the GP hub,’ a pharmacist said.  ‘They had received a text to come in to the GP hub. How can that be happening legitimately?’

Ravi Sharma, the England director of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, told Correspondent.World:’ ‘Pharmacists, who usually are within ten minutes of most people’s homes, are a vital cog in getting this vaccine out quickly and efficiently.  Going to the local pharmacy makes life much easier for those who need it. So it’s distressing to hear that not enough patients are being directed to some pharmacies.

‘Not only are pharmacists very used to giving jabs successfully, like the flu jab, but when it’s done so locally it encourages a bigger take-up of the vaccine.  

‘And we need to do all we can to encourage the hard-to-reach — especially black and Asian people — to feel confident to come forward, as well as anyone who has heard fake news or who has queries about the effects of the vaccines.

‘We need to use the full mix.  But we think this under-use of the vaccines is not happening in the majority of pharmacies.  We hope it’s just teething troubles.  In general everybody is cooperating across professions but we must be equitable and fair to all.’