A new study by the University of Nottingham and Boots UK reveals community pharmacy can play an important role in driving the uptake of flu vaccinations amongst at-risk patients, including those with diabetes and pregnant women. The NHS and WHO (World Health Organisation) have set a target of 75% of at-risk patients to receive a flu vaccination, however during the winter of 2011/12 there was only a 50% uptake. The new study highlights the integrated role community pharmacy can play, working alongside GPs, in reaching patients unlikely to access the service at their surgery.
The research published online in open access journal BMC Health Services Research analysed data collected from a sample of Boots UK community pharmacies during 2012/2013. It reveals that despite being eligible for a flu vaccination free on the NHS some patients still preferred to pay for the service at their local pharmacy.
Peter Bainbridge, Director of Pharmacy at Boots UK comments: "50% of at-risk patients are not receiving their flu vaccination and we believe community pharmacy can help reduce this number. Patients tell us that a pharmacy is a convenient and accessible option for getting their flu vaccination. We are near to where they work and have opening hours that suit their busy lives. At-risk patients regularly visit our pharmacies to collect their prescription and to seek advice and support so our pharmacists are also well placed to remind them of the importance of immunisation."
Professor Claire Anderson from the School of Pharmacy at the University of Nottingham, comments: "There is a recognised need to continue to drive uptake flu vaccinations for patients in at-risk groups but achieving the level required is challenging and requires innovative thinking and new approaches. Community pharmacy is currently an underused resource within the NHS and this latest research demonstrates a valuable role pharmacy can play as part of an integrated healthcare system."
Rob Darracott, Chief Executive, Pharmacy Voice said: "It is encouraging that many people are choosing to pay to have their flu vaccination in community pharmacies even when they are eligible for NHS vaccinations because of the accessibility and convenience of the pharmacy service. Clearly there are opportunities for community pharmacy to support the NHS and GPs in delivering free flu vaccinations to patients at risk by targeting those patients unlikely to access services at the GP surgery. Dispensing Health, the new campaign from Pharmacy Voice is designed to raise public awareness of pharmacy services such as flu vaccination which make an important contribution to staying well."