It’s not as exciting as football season, but flu season is here

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It’s nearly that time of year again when community pharmacy begins to prepare itself for the upcoming ‘flu season’.

In May, NHS England announced that the snappily-titled ‘Community Pharmacy Seasonal Influenza Vaccination Advanced Service’ would, once again, be commissioned for 2016/17. Furthermore, terms and fees for the service will remain the same as 2015/16 – hurrah! The only discernible difference is that this year the service will run slightly longer, from 1st September 2016 to 31st March 2017.

The NHS Business Services Authority has published the Advance Flu Report for the 2015/16 season, detailing the community pharmacy contractors who signed up to deliver the service. It also included specifics such as the NHS England area, name of vaccine administered, manufacturer, quantity and drug and fee costs.

The number of community pharmacies who provided the national NHS Flu Vaccination Service in 2015/16 was 7,195 – 60.9% of all community pharmacies in England – with pharmacists providing a staggering 595,467 flu vaccinations to patients.

The injected flu vaccine is offered free of charge on the NHS to people who are ‘at risk’. This is to ensure they are protected against catching flu and developing serious complications.

Patients eligible to receive a free vaccine must meet one or more of the following criteria:

          65 years of age or over

          Pregnant

          Certain medical conditions

          Very overweight

          Living in a long-stay care facility

          Receiving a carer’s allowance

          Main carer for an elderly or disabled person

          Front-line health and social care worker.

 

While the commissioning of a fifth advanced service is a definite move in the right direction it would be even better to see this expanded to include under 18s. Despite listing people aged six months to less than 65 years of age – in a clinical risk group – as being in the inclusion criteria, the service level agreement for community pharmacy was explicit in stating that pharmacy was only able to vaccinate those over 18 years of age.

Many community pharmacies offer a private flu vaccination service with significantly wider inclusion criteria. At Superdrug, for example, we are offering a private flu vaccination service, in pharmacies and Nurse Clinics, to those aged two and upwards. I hope that all readers are preparing themselves for the flu season and that all those that require a jab get one.

Combatting the effects of the dreaded flu is a life-long battle for everyone, but it is one we are gradually winning.

Niamh is Clinical Development Manager at Superdrug. Please note, these are Niamh’s personal views and do not necessarily reflect those of the Superdrug business.