In an email to patients and a poster displayed in the window of Rowlands Castle Surgery in Hampshire last week (July 22), the GP partners and practice manager asked patients to: “Please support the surgery by booking your flu (and COVID-19) appointment with the surgery.
“If our patients go elsewhere for their vaccination, our stock will go to waste and it may affect us being able to offer a comprehensive service in future,” they warned.
“We are not working with any pharmacies or hubs to provide this service as we are commissioned to and able to vaccinate all our eligible patients.”
In its original email to patients, the surgery wrote that it had signed up to phase 3 of the COVID-19 vaccination programme and the GPs hoped to offer flu jabs alongside the COVID-19 booster vaccinations from mid-September.
C+D understands that pharmacies in the area have had patients cancel their pre-booked flu vaccination appointments after seeing this communication from the GP surgery.
In February, pharmacies were told to order their flu jab stock for the 2021/22 season “on the basis” of the record number of jabs they administered in 2020/21.
In an updated message published this week (July 26), Rowlands Castle Surgery stressed: “At this stage, decisions have not been made about the way in which COVID-19 vaccinations will be delivered. We hope to be able to offer the COVID-19 vaccine and the flu vaccine at the same time, but the arrangements are yet to be finalised.”
The GP partners are still encouraging patients to book their flu vaccinations directly with the surgery “to prevent wastage”.
“Not worded as well as it might have been”
In response to C+D’s request for comment on the communication sent to patients, Rowlands Castle Surgery practice manager Janine Leake said: “The main objective of the GPs and staff at Rowlands Castle Surgery has always been to ensure that every patient eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine can receive one.
“We do accept that our first poster was not worded as well as it might have been, and we have replaced the original and revised the content.”
While she stressed that decisions have yet to be made on the COVID-19 booster vaccination programme, the surgery’s “strong hope” is to be able to offer patients both jabs at the same time, she said.
“We completely respect the right of patients to exercise choice, but it is also important for patients to be aware that if they do not book their flu jabs with us, there will be vaccine wastage. [This] may affect the number of vaccines we can purchase in future – potentially compromising the comprehensive coverage that we are currently proud to offer,” Ms Leake told C+D.
“We are not booking flu vaccinations yet, so none have booked with us to date,” she added.
A pharmacy dispensing technician from a neighbouring town – who wished to remain anonymous – said: “It is incredibly demoralising and deflating when GP surgeries emotionally blackmail patients to receive their flu vaccine with them, through fear of a lack of comprehensive service in the future and wastage of vaccines.
“Many of our patients are upset they were made to fear to use their local pharmacy through an email sent out to the community,” they added.
“GP practices should all be working together with pharmacies and promoting uptake and trust within the community, particularly during a pandemic, [instead of] communicating such narratives that cause worry and distress,” the dispensing technician continued.