NHS accused of ‘tactical error’ for not enrolling pharmacies in booster programme

NHS nurse erupts at Tories threatening Covid rules rebellion

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While more than 5,300 pharmacies in Britain have come forward to take part in the Covid vaccination programme, only 1,500 have been enrolled so far. Pharmacists have accused health officials of making a critical mistake, which has left millions of people unprotected.

Leaders of Britain’s pharmacists said NHS planners had “missed a trick” by rejecting the vast majority of pharmacies who sought to take part in the rollout.

Questioned on the matter in the Commons, vaccines minister Maggie Throup said: “As of the end of September 2021, 4,733 contractors submitted 5,376 expressions of interest to take part in the booster vaccination programme, with 1,454 accepted.”

She said the expressions of interest which were not accepted would now be looked at again.

Alastair Buxton, director of NHS services at the pharmaceutical services negotiating committee, said the rejection of many thousands of pharmacies earlier in the rollout had been “a tactical error”, urging ministers to quickly revisit the matter.

He stated: “There is an urgent need to upscale the vaccination programme, and we have pharmacies willing to help, but unable to do so because they have not been commissioned to work as vaccination sites.

“Pharmacies who would like to help could be ready to deploy quite quickly, should the NHS change its mind, although with short notice and the Christmas increase in demand for repeat prescriptions, this will be a much bigger challenge for them.”

An NHS spokesperson said: “There are nearly 1,500 pharmacies delivering boosters compared to under 1,000 in October and Monday saw a record number of vaccinations in pharmacies with over 185,000 people getting protected at their local pharmacy.”

The recent data suggests around 25 million people in the UK have now received a booster jab.

However, around 20 million more are eligible to be jabbed by the end of the year, with services struggling to keep up with demand since the rollout was accelerated.

Health officials are pleading with GPs to abandon routine care and focus all efforts on the booster programme until the end of the year.

Many had dropped out of the booster rollout, while a number of mass vaccination centres had been closed.

Health officials have promised to open existing services for at least 12 hours a day, with extra pop-up sites, including Wembley Stadium, which will be offering jabs on Sunday.

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Since September the NHS had been offering boosters to over-50s, health workers and those with underlying conditions, six months after their second jab.

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