Preparations for a potential COVID-19 vaccination programme

Preparations for a potential COVID-19 vaccination programme

November 12, 2020

Since news broke on the positive trials of a COVID-19 vaccine by Pfizer, there has been much speculation about how a vaccination programme might work and how quickly it will be rolled out. We appreciate that the lack of detail on community pharmacy’s role has been frustrating for contractors and their teams, so we wanted to provide an additional update.

As pharmacy contractors may be aware, earlier this week NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) published a letter and associated information for general practices on how they can get involved in the vaccination programme:

Whilst not written for community pharmacy, these documents are useful in understanding the logistical challenges for any provider that might want to offer the COVID-19 vaccination.

How will community pharmacy be involved?

NHSE&I have clearly indicated that it expects community pharmacy to have a role in the COVID-19 vaccination programme, but contractors should be aware that – due to the complexity surrounding its unprecedented mass rollout and the storage requirements for the Pfizer vaccine – their involvement will be very different from any involvement they have in other vaccination programmes.

At this time, there are two ways in which community pharmacies could play a part in the programme:

Option 1: They work with the general practices in their PCN (or a neighbouring one) to support the PCN vaccination site and any outreach into care homes etc. necessary from that site. This could involve pharmacy contractors providing staff, under a private arrangement, to support the GP/PCN-led service; or

Option 2: They provide a COVID-19 vaccination service under the terms of the Enhanced service (which is currently being drafted) where NHSE&I want to commission that service, either because they have no existing provision in an area or they need additional provision.

The majority of pharmacy contractors are unlikely to have the capacity or the space needed to provide a vaccination site on their own. Where contractors do have capacity to get involved and want to do so, number one is likely to be the best option for most to pursue.

What’s happening now?

By 17th November, each PCN must submit the details of their chosen COVID-19 vaccination site (multiple sites permitted in exceptional circumstances) to their Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). The CCG will then assess the site’s suitability and submit a recommendation to the NHSE&I regional team.

By 23rd November, the NHSE&I regional team will have informed PCNs of their decision on designation of the site.

Pharmacy discussions with PCNs and general practices about supporting the PCN vaccination site with community pharmacy staff and more local discussions, on what will be private, not NHS arrangements, will probably happen once PCNs have got clarity on designation of their vaccination sites.

We understand that NHSE&I will shortly publish documentation on the community pharmacy Enhanced service, like that already published on the general practice service. We will alert contractors when that documentation is published.



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