As an unprecedented demand for Lateral Flow Device (LFD) test kits continues through the Pharmacy Collect service, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is planning to distribute 10.5 million LFD test kits per week via Alliance Healthcare this month.
By the end of this week (January 8), the UKHSA aims to distribute more than 8 million tests to Alliance Healthcare – sole distributor to pharmacies.
The announcement comes after many in the pharmacy sector voiced concerns over shortage of test kits. Earlier this week, it emerged that Alliance Healthcare closed for four days shortly after receiving around 2.5 million tests on Christmas Eve.
Meanwhile, the UKHSA indicated that Alliance Healthcare has been delivering 86 per cent of its orders within 24 hours of the pharmacy order, nearly half of that on the same day.
Besides, a plan to switch on a Parcel Force delivery contingency is being finalized by UKHSA, which would enable supply of a further 3.5 million test kits.
The agency added that it along with the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) are regularly monitoring the supply issues.
PSNC acknowledged that pharmacy teams are under constant pressure amid heightened demand for test kits and limited supply.
Zoe Long, director of Communications and Public Affairs at PSNC expressed concern over reports of verbal abuse on pharmacy staff, especially where people are unaware that “having a code does not guarantee that supply is available.”
She said: “The UKHSA are doing all that they can to assure supplies, but so far, and with further policy changes emphasizing the importance of lateral flow tests announced today, this will not have felt like enough to many pharmacy teams.
“We do hope that these further steps to increase supply will start to have a positive impact soon, but in the meantime, we will continue to raise concerns with the UKHSA on an ongoing basis.”
Advice for contractors
PSNC has advised community pharmacy contractors to regularly check availability of products supplied by UKSHA and order whichever is in stock.
The negotiator also suggested contractors signpost people to local authority collection sites in case they run out of stock and replenishment is awaited.
A poster which pharmacies can print off and display when they are out of stock of test kits has been released by the UKSHA.