For many people, influenza is a self-limiting and unpleasant illness but does not pose a serious health risk. However, for certain groups including the young, the elderly, pregnant women and those with certain chronic conditions, it represents a potentially fatal condition. The NHS runs a seasonal flu campaign that aims to protect these most vulnerable groups from winter flu by offering them free vaccination.
For most of these groups, in most areas, these vaccinations have only been available in GP surgeries, often only on specific days. However, in recent years, many areas have also commissioned community pharmacies to administer NHS flu vaccinations.
Pharmacies are typically open longer hours than GP surgeries and can often offer vaccinations on any day at any time, either by appointment or on a walk-in basis. Pharmacies are also highly accessible - 96% of the population live within a 20 minute walk of a pharmacy, and 99% are within 20 minutes by car of public transport.
The availability of free vaccines from pharmacies throughout London since 2012 has seen uptake targets reached for the first time across the whole population, and since September 2015 - following campaigning by the national pharmacy bodies, supported by the MPs of the All-Party Pharmacy Group - pharmacies in England have been commissioned to administer NHS flu vaccines on a nationwide basis.
To highlight the clinical abilities of pharmacists, and discuss other ways in which pharmacies could be better used to relieve the winter pressures on the NHS, RPS, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) and Pharmacy Voice are working together to promote the flu service among politicians.