The testing service scheduled to start from Tuesday (September 1) was introduced into the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework (Photo: iStock).

The Community Pharmacy hepatitis C virus antibody testing service, which was delayed following Covid-19 pandemic, is set to launch from next week.

The testing service scheduled to start from Tuesday (September 1) was introduced into the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework.

Any pharmacy that meets the service requirements will be able to provide the service. However, it will be of most interest to contractors that provide a locally commissioned needle and syringe programme service, with a sufficient number of clients, to make the investment in provision of the service worthwhile.

Community pharmacies considering to provide the service have been suggested to first read the service specification and then consider the likely costs of providing the service and the number of Person Who Inject Drugs (PWIDs) they are likely to be able to test.

Contractors will be able to claim a payment of £36 per test performed on an eligible PWID including the cost of the test and values added tax (VAT).

Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for NHS England, Dr Keith Ridge, tweeted on Friday: “From September, community pharmacies will be able to test people who inject drugs but aren’t accessing treatment services, for Hepatitis C virus antibodies and refer for treatment – important new step in eliminating HCV.”

The service is part of NHS England and NHS Improvement’s national programme to eliminate Hep C virus as a major public health threat by 2025.

The service aims to use community pharmacies to target PWIDs for testing, as they are the healthcare venue most likely to be visited by that group of people.

Commenting on the launch of the service, Alastair Buxton, Director of NHS Services at PSNC said: “The commissioning of this new Advanced service provides an excellent opportunity for the sector to participate in an incredibly important national and global public health initiative to eliminate Hep C virus and the harm it causes to so many people in our society.

“In the UK, those at highest risk of contracting HCV are people who inject drugs and community pharmacy is the healthcare provider with the best access to that group of people. The commissioning of this service underlines the importance of the access to healthcare that is provided through the community pharmacy network.

“Pharmacy contractors who provide a needle and syringe programme to a significant number of clients will be best placed to provide this service and to ensure its provision will also work from an economic perspective.”

The new advanced service is focused on provision of point of care testing for Hep C antibodies to people who inject drugs (PWIDs).

This means the individuals who inject illicit drugs including steroids or heroin, but who haven’t yet moved to the point of accepting treatment for their substance use.

If someone tests positive for Hep C antibodies, they will be referred for a confirmatory test and treatment, where appropriate.

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