A survey of GP practices across the UK conducted by Pulse magazine has concluded that over 50% were ultimately left with unused flu vaccines.
It seems that the eleventh hour introduction of a national pharmacies scheme, which encouraged patients to acquire vaccines from their pharmacist, had a massive impact on the incidence of vaccines being left over.
Additionally, one-third of all practices in the UK had lost out financially as a result of vaccines being used.
The scheme had been introduced for the 2015/16 seasonal flu vaccination campaign.
In recent years, there has been a particular emphasis on encouraging people to take flu vaccines in order to fight seasonal flu, but there is some scepticism both within and outside the medical profession on the efficacy of this initiative.
Both doctors and campaigners have asserted that too many people are being encouraged to take flu shots, with many healthy individuals, who are really not being particularly threatened by the relatively mild virus, being vaccinated.
Thus, the financial cost that doctors surgeries have incurred as a result of this particular scheme will particularly grate with many, considering that purchasing the vaccine in the first place was not entirely necessary.
Some of the hardest hit practices have lost as much as £3,000 over this issue, and at a time when the NHS is very much cash-strapped, it seems that this is a rather avoidable and gratuitous expense.
Commenting on the survey findings, Dr Andrew Green, chair of the GPC’s clinical and prescribing subcommittee, suggested that the scheme could possibly be tweaked in the future to ensure that GP practices are not out of pockets.
“It is of deep regret that these practices have been deprived of the resources they need to provide patient care by the introduction of this scheme without any notice period or negotiation, and it provides a good example of the adverse consequences that can happen when care is fragmented. Hopefully these practices will have been able to adjust their orders for this year, though as we have previously said this will make full patient protection in the event of an epidemic harder to achieve.”
Responding to these assertions, a spokesperson on behalf of NHS England suggested that the information had been taken on board, and that it would be utilised in the crafting of the 2016/17 influenza strategy.
“We expect our early announcement on the recommissioning of the Community Pharmacy Seasonal Influenza Vaccination programme for 2016/17 will benefit GP practices when it comes to preparing stocks, placing orders and help to avoid any unnecessary costs. We will continue to review and evaluate the scheme.”