(Photo: REUTERS/Amir Cohen)

Acknowledging their contribution in the first and second phases of vaccination drive, NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) has decided to add 1,000 more community pharmacy sites in the third phase.

The decision was taken as the government prepares to launch Covid-19 booster programme in September.

Adding more community pharmacy sites will help to cover the underserved communities, increase weekend and evening vaccination capacity, and ease workforce pressures across primary care teams.

NHSE&I aims to publish the general practice and community pharmacy service specifications for Phase III in the first half of July and enroll the interested contractors towards the month-end.

Last week, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) released its advisory about the Covid-19 booster programme, which is expected to be offered in two stages from September.

Over the next few weeks, NHSE&I regional teams will work with Local Pharmaceutical Committees (LPC) to seek expressions of interest from contractors to participate in phase three of the vaccination programme.

It would share further information about the expression of interest with all contractors via their regional teams.

Alastair Buxton, director of NHS Services at Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), said, “PSNC (Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee) believes community pharmacies are ideally placed to play a significant role in the Covid-19 vaccination booster programme, particularly given their incredible track record on flu vaccinations and the work of the 600+ pharmacies already administering Covid-19 vaccines.”

Adding community pharmacies to the programme will allow general practitioners to focus on the backlog of care which has resulted from the pandemic, he said.

“However, the logistical complexities of the programme for the NHS and the availability of vaccines means many pharmacies will not be able to offer C-19 vaccination and co-administration therefore presents a risk that some pharmacies may see a reduction in demand for flu vaccination,” he added.

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