Staff 'baffled' after pharmacy has application to issue Covid vaccine rejected

A Preston pharmacist has said that independent pharmacies want to 'help their local communities' by administering the new Covid-19 vaccination and have a workforce that are being ignored.
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The news comes as the Lancashire Post and our sister titles across the UK challenged Boris Johnson to ensure that every citizen is only a short walk away from a vaccine centre - after Ministers said that everyone will be within 10 miles of a site by the end of January.

In the Government's bid to vaccinate two million people a week, we are now urging them to deploy the country’s network of 11,000 pharmacies as front-line Covid vaccine centres to make the vaccine accessible for all.

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Shahid Umar, a pharmacist at DDL Davies Pharmacy, Plungington, said that they had made an application to administer the vaccine and had the capacity, with the help of the Plungington community centre, to inject upwards of 1,500 people a week.

Shahid Umar of DDL Davies Pharmacy, PlungingtonShahid Umar of DDL Davies Pharmacy, Plungington
Shahid Umar of DDL Davies Pharmacy, Plungington

However, despite meeting what he considered to be the necessary criteria, he claims the application was rejected.

Mr Umar said: "We were told that we had to be open seven days a week, for at least 12 hours and have the capacity to vaccinate at least 1,000 people.

"We had planned to use the Plungington community centre, which had parking and good transport links and had more than enough space to vaccinate more than 1,500 people weekly in the community.

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"We had all our volunteers and staff on board who are already trained but our application was rejected. For us, it is frustrating because we want to help our local community and have a strong workforce already in place to deliver this vaccine.

Shahid says that pharmacists feel they are being 'ignored' when they want to help the community in a bid to vaccinate the nationShahid says that pharmacists feel they are being 'ignored' when they want to help the community in a bid to vaccinate the nation
Shahid says that pharmacists feel they are being 'ignored' when they want to help the community in a bid to vaccinate the nation

"It was baffling to us, because we thought the Government would want as many people on board helping with this pandemic. We see advertisements where they are urging people to come forward and volunteer to give the vaccination, but we already have the infrastructure and training to do it.

"I am sure, like us, a lot of pharmacists will feel disappointed that we can't help, there will never be another time in history like this and we all do this job because we want to help our communities.

"The government are going to such great lengths by bringing in the army and opening up huge mass vaccination sites, but are ignoring a huge workforce of people who want to help. There is no shortage of community pharmacies and people are never more than a few minutes away from one."

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Shahid believes that the pharmacy's application may have been rejected because the Issa Medical Centre, St Gregory's Road, is one of the new vaccination centres close-by, but this has not been confirmed.

In a letter from NHS England to local pharmaceutical communities, it stated: "Community pharmacy-led designated vaccination sites will be commissioned as a Local Enhanced Service (LES) by NHS England and NHS Improvement regional teams in consultation with Local Pharmaceutical Committees.

"Key requirements must be met by all designated sites. These include facilities, availability of workforce, equity of access, geographical coverage and total number of sites that can be accommodated within the COVID-19 vaccine supply chain. There will be a requirement to be able to administer at least 1000 vaccines each week.

"There will be a designation and assessment process that will provide NHS England and NHS Improvement with a priority list which will be used to make commissioning decisions."

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And Kath Gulson, chief executive officer at Community Pharmacy Lancashire, which represents around 360 community pharmacies across the region, said the county’s army of pharmacists are on stand-by, waiting for the Government to get in touch with an action plan.

She said: “Whether they’re bigger chains or smaller chains, they are all pharmacists and local people serving local people, and they really want to get involved in getting jabs into people’s arms. There’s a will there.

“What we have said to the Government for a while is, ‘We do flu jabs so we can do this, and we are ready’.”

Kath said there are logistically issues, such as how to deliver the jabs to branches, to “iron out” at a national level, but said pharmacists now simply await an action plan from the Government.

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