Cunninghame South MSP Ruth Maguire was needled by health campaigners this week – but it was all in the cause of learning first-hand how our local pharmacies can help deliver a vital health service to the public more effectively.

Unlike in England, highly qualified pharmacists are unable to administer flu vaccinations for the NHS – despite being well able to do so.

And, in the view of Community Pharmacy Scotland, that means that Scotland’s hard-pressed GP services are coming under ever-greater pressure in their battle to balance a whole range of services.

The pharmacists maintain that allowing them to help administer the flu jabs would help significantly in getting much closer to target levels amongst the most vulnerable populations who qualify for the vaccination, such as the elderly, pregnant women and people with specific conditions.

This has prompted Community Pharmacy Scotland clinicians to take to the Scottish Parliament to show MSPs first-hand just how easily they could help, using a dummy medical arm just in case nervous politicians found their aim was off!

Harry McQuillan CEO of Community Pharmacy Scotland said: “Last year the number of people suffering flu doubled from the previous year. Our vaccination rates fall well below World Health Organisation targets, and we’ve never managed to vaccinate more than 61% of ‘at risk’ adults under the age of 65.

“Meanwhile we have a network of 1250 pharmacies staffed by qualified clinicians throughout our communities, often open six days a week. We need the required change in legislation to allow us to come into line with England, where pharmacists delivered 1.17 million flu vaccinations between September and January last winter.”

Ruth Maguire commented: “We need to improve patient access to NHS flu jabs and it makes sense to do this without giving GPS extra work to do. Many community pharmacies already offer a private vaccination service so I support the idea of making NHS vaccines available through this route.”