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Community pharmacies to provide free COVID-19 tests to eligible patients

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The new Advanced service to supply Lateral Flow Device (LFD) kits through pharmacists is set to launch next month

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) announced that free COVID-19 lateral flow tests will be supplied through community pharmacies for at-risk groups.

The service will operate from 6 November for patients aged over 12 years who are at risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms.

Community pharmacies that have participated in this new initiative will be paid £4 plus VAT for each box of five lateral flow device test kits provided.

Alastair Buxton, Director of NHS services at Community Pharmacy England said: “This is not going to be a high-volume service, but community pharmacy teams are well placed to provide LFD test kits to eligible patients with them having made over 25.5 million supplies of COVID-19 LFD test kits in 2021/22.

“The service is similar to the previous LFD Pharmacy Collect service, so with the resources we will provide for pharmacy owners, we expect it will be straightforward for pharmacy teams to get up and running with the service if the pharmacy owner chooses to provide it.

“At a time when we are seeing COVID-19 cases start to increase, this service along with the COVID-19 vaccination service, demonstrates yet again what a key part of the NHS community pharmacies are.”

The eligibility criteria are available from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and they encompass patients with conditions that may impact their immune systems.

Pharmacists must confirm a patient’s eligibility for the tests by seeing their NHS letter; having a discussion with the patient or their representative about the patient’s medical history; or referring to the pharmacy’s clinical records if the pharmacy has previously seen and made a record of having seen a copy of the patient’s NHS letter.

The new pharmacy advanced service will replace the existing service, wherein eligible patients can obtain lateral flow tests by either contacting NHS 119 or through the government’s website.

An NHS spokesperson spoke about the role of the community pharmacies, saying: “Community pharmacies continue to play an important role in the fight against COVID-19 — placed in the heart of local communities, this new service will ensure LFD tests continue to be available and easily accessible to people who are potentially eligible for COVID-19 treatments.”

According to a service specification released by the NHS Business Services Authority, approximately 3.9 million patients were expected to qualify for complimentary lateral flow tests.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, community pharmacies dispensed lateral flow tests to patients through the ‘Community pharmacy COVID-19 lateral flow device distribution service,’ often referred to as Pharmacy Collect.

In the initial seven months of the program, from April to November 2021, pharmacy contractors processed claims for nearly 17 million transactions.

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