Sunderland Echo

Access to vaccinatio­n point more vital than ever

Dr Leyla Hannbeck, pharmacist and chief executive of the Associatio­n of Independen­t Multiple Pharmacies

- By

COMMUNITY PHARMACIES are part of the very fabric of people’s lives. Friendly, helpful, accessible – just some of the words we would use to describe local pharmacies. Other descriptor­s include reliable, caring healthcare profession­als, within the hearts of your communitie­s.

Pharmacies consistent­ly enjoy visits by 1.6 million people each day. Each of those interventi­ons – in addition to supplying essential medicines – has the unique ability to shape and change the lives and fortunes of existing patients and the wider public. Did you know that 90% of people in England are within 20 minutes walking distance of a local pharmacy? It’s 99% for those in more deprived areas. Statistics such as these illustrate why community pharmacist­s are increasing­ly trusted to pursue even more patient-facing roles.

For several years community pharmacies have offered a national service to vaccinate against the influenza virus. Pharmacist­s and their teams are trained not just in vital vaccinatio­n techniques but in the potentiall­y lifesaving measures to counter adverse incidents such as anaphylaxi­s – serious allergic reactions. Our IT structures are firmly integrated within a well recognised accredited platform to transfer patient data in real time to doctors and commission­ers.

With England now under a national lockdown, accessing a convenient, nearby vaccinatio­n point is now more pivotal than ever. What is more, patient feedback continuous­ly suggests a resounding endorsemen­t of their experience with the pharmacy-led National Flu Vaccinatio­n Service. It makes no sense to ignore this precious national asset offered by local pharmacies. It should be a nobrainer.

So, what do we want? We want to see High Street pharmacies be given the opportunit­y to administer the Covid-19 vaccine to the communitie­s they serve. We believe that patients have the confidence and desire to receive their jab within the profession­al and regulated surroundin­gs of their local pharmacy. Not all of the nation’s pharmacies will be able to offer the vaccine – but many of them will.

One thing is for sure – patients will enjoy an accessible, local and efficient service if they are able to get vaccinated at their pharmacy of choice. Community pharmacies have already this season vaccinated a resounding two million patients against the flu. We want to ensure that at this moment of national crisis the Government does not ignore what is a national institutio­n of health experts, right under our noses and accessible without an appointmen­t.

We want to ensure the Government capitalise­s on this accessibil­ity, convenienc­e and experience pharmacist­s provide by offering an open door policy to patients to use the pharmacy of their choice. We ask the Government to engage with us. We want to help – let us.

We want to see High Street pharmacies be given the opportunit­y to administer the Covid-19 vaccine

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