New official data has shown that pharmacists played a bigger role than ever in delivering vaccinations during the most recent influenza season.
The NHS Business Services Authority has published its Advanced Service Flu Report for 2016-17, revealing that community pharmacists in England administered 950,765 flu vaccinations to patients through the national NHS Flu Vaccination Service during this period.
Meanwhile, the number of pharmacies that provided vaccinations rose to 8,451, or 71.2 per cent of all community pharmacies in England. The total number of vaccinations administered was higher by 355,298 than the figure for 2015-16, with 1,256 more contractors having provided the service.
The NHS data also indicated that each participating pharmacy administered an average of 113 flu jabs, although some branches provided considerably more than this - indeed, three contractors completed in excess of 1,000 vaccinations each.
These findings have been welcomed by the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), which noted that this growth comes against a backdrop of uncertainty for the pharmacy sector, and underlines the importance of pharmacists being involved more prominently in the provision of key services.
Alastair Buxton, PSNC director of NHS Services, also noted that these figures demonstrate the public's willingness to access services that have traditionally been provided in other settings through local pharmacies, suggesting that these establishments could be asked to provide a broader range of clinical services in future.
He said: "Flu vaccinations have been a real success, but there is much more that we could do to both improve patient care and ease burden on other healthcare providers. As the NHS struggles to manage demands, we hope that its leaders will be taking note."