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Pharmacy First and Contraception services launch date announced

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The new contraceptive service is to launch next month while the new Pharmacy First Common Ailments service by early next year, the NHS confirmed

The NHSE announced that the new Pharmacy First Common Ailments service will launch by early next year.

However, CPE revealed that the service is due to commence on 31 January (pending the readiness of necessary IT infrastructure) as an Advanced Service.

This Pharmacy First Common Ailments service will empower patients to seek treatment for seven common conditions directly from a pharmacy without the need for a GP appointment or prescription.

The covered ailments include “sinusitis, sore throat, earache, infected insect bites, impetigo, shingles, and uncomplicated urinary tract infections (UTIs)” in women.

People with symptoms of the above seven conditions will be supplied with a prescription-only treatment under a Patient Group Direction (PGD).

The new service includes self-referring patients plus referrals, and the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS) will also be a part of it.

Community Pharmacy England (CPE) unveiled the eagerly anticipated details of its primary care recovery plan reforms, initially disclosed in May.

NHSE and the government have revealed a funding boost of “up to £645 million” over a “two-year period for community pharmacies”, with the objective of “expanding their services.”

CPE have reached an agreement with the government and the NHS to also introduce the new Contraceptive Service which is set to commence in December, marking a significant expansion of primary care services across England.

The rollout of this enhanced pharmacy Contraceptive Service is scheduled to begin on 1 December, offering a convenient and accessible alternative for women seeking contraceptive options for the “first time” across England.

Starting next month, the women will be able to obtain a “first prescription for the contraception pill by visiting their local pharmacies.”

To facilitate ease of access, the NHS will update the NHS.uk website, enabling patients to identify pharmacies near them that offer this service.

Janet Morrison, the chief executive of CPE says that Pharmacy First will help “lay the foundations for future clinical services” and “establish the sector as an increasingly vital part of primary care” offering an open door for the public and patients, relieving pressure and releasing capacity in other frontline NHS services.

“This is the future that the sector told Nuffield Trust and The King’s Fund that it wanted, and this was backed by our own summer polling in which 86% of respondents said they were positive about delivering a Pharmacy First service.

She added: “We all now need to work together to make it a success, delivering real value to patients and the public using all our skills and capabilities.

“Alongside Pharmacy First, the Government and the NHS have responded to our calls for additional funding for other services. While it is frustrating that the fees for the Blood Pressure Check Service and the new Pharmacy Contraception Service will not change, £75 million per year of additional funding has been made available to support the expansion of these services.

“This means many more consultations are achievable without putting pressure on the core contractual sum, and we hope pharmacies will be able to offer even more valued support to patients.

“We will be working hard over the coming months with partners across the sector to promote these services and to make them as manageable as possible for pharmacy owners and their teams,” she further added.

“And we will be carefully monitoring the uptake of services and funding delivery to protect
pharmacy owners.”

With the overarching goal of freeing up to 10 million GP appointments annually by the winter of 2024, the NHS is set on an ambitious path toward revolutionizing primary care services.

As part of this strategic vision, a commitment was announced to deliver 2.5 million “pharmacy blood pressure service” for at-risk patients by Spring 2025.

Amanda Pritchard, the NHS chief executive said: “This is really good news for women – we all lead increasingly busy lives, and thanks to this action, rather than making a GP appointment, they can simply pop into their local pharmacy when they need or want to access contraception.

“We will also be expanding services so that more health checks are available for patients on the high street, which is not only better and easier for patients but also frees up NHS time for more GP appointments for those who need them most.”

Tase Oputu, Chair of RPS in England, said: “This move will provide women with greater choice in obtaining contraception and advice in the way that best meets their needs.

“Pharmacists are experts in medicines and perfectly placed to provide relevant health checks and ongoing support for women accessing contraception. The trials of this scheme showed a widespread welcome for the service, and the convenience community pharmacy offers as the front door to the NHS.

Oputu added: “It also makes suitable use of the clinical skills of pharmacists in partnership with GPs and existing sexual health services.

“We welcome the ability of community pharmacy teams to treat these seven conditions from February, as this is the first step towards a vision of wider prescribing services in pharmacy, using the clinical skills of pharmacists.

“We have long been calling for improved digital integration to improve the efficiency of pharmacy services for patients and health care professionals alike. We are pleased that today’s announcement also acknowledges the digital investment and records access required to make the Pharmacy First Service a clinical success.”

Niamh McMillan, Superdrug Pharmacy Superintendent commented: “Supporting healthcare needs within communities is always our priority and we welcome initiatives that make it easier and quicker for people to access healthcare.

“Our pharmacists are highly qualified professionals who work in the heart of communities, building a rapport with their patients to help support their healthcare needs. Many people choose not to visit their GP when they feel unwell and the rollout of the primary care recovery plan will provide them with more choice and more access to healthcare experts when they need it most.

“All our pharmacy team members currently deliver the blood pressure service and are presently undergoing training so they will be ready to support the public with the new contraception services from January and then the additional Pharmacy First services when they launch on the 31st January, 2024.

“These additional services will cover sinusitis, sore throat, earache, infected insect bite, impetigo, shingles, and uncomplicated urinary tract infections in women.”

Pharmacists are gearing up to intensify their efforts over the next year to ensure the successful implementation of this relaunched Hypertension Case-Finding service, which is set to commence on 1 December.

The extensive changes proposed by the NHS mark a significant transformation in how primary care services operate, embracing new ideas and utilising the crucial role of pharmacies to make healthcare more accessible and efficient.

These efforts are set to not just simplify healthcare procedures but also give individuals more power to manage their health and well-being effectively.

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