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LPC 'hopeful' for HIV testing service after successful pilot

Cumbria local pharmaceutical committee (LPC) is "hopeful" it will be commissioned to deliver an HIV testing service after a successful pilot.

Sixteen pharmacies across Cumbria have already delivered 30 free finger-prick HIV tests, with four more pharmacies looking to join the pilot after they receive training, the LPC’s development manager Lynn McFarlane told C+D today (June 1).

The pilot is one of 13 HIV prevention projects that received a share of Public Health England's (PHE) £600,000 National HIV Prevention Innovation Fund. 

At the time of the pilot's launch, PHE said pharmacies in Cumbria with high testing rates would receive "sustained support through the local authority and local NHS provider", once the pilot ends in November 2018.

The "spread of 20 pharmacies" providing the service "may be adequate", Ms McFarlane said, but "we are hopeful" the service will be commissioned further once the pilot has ended.

Read more about the pilot below.

Interest from LPCs across the country

Pharmacist Mark Stakim of Dalston Pharmacy in Carlisle, Cumbria told C+D: "We’ve had enquiries from other social health bodies and LPCs from up and down the country asking us what the impact of the service has been."

His pharmacy has completed the most tests in the district – alongside one other pharmacy – with “five or six” so far, he said. However, “it's not been a service where people have been trampling the door down”.

Some of these patients were referred to the pharmacy by their social health service, Mr Stakim continued, as they wanted an "instant result".

Patients will travel to a pharmacy “a few miles away” from their homes “for the sake of anonymity”, Mr Stakim said. He stressed that it’s a "good service to offer" because "you get to see more people that you don't normally see".

Ms McFarlane explained that pharmacies receive £15 from PHE for each rapid test provided, whether the patient is reactive or not. PHE has budgeted for 1,000 tests.

Pharmacies record the results through PharmOutcomes, including the satisfaction of the user and the pharmacist, according to PHE.

How did the service come about?

In 2015, Cumbria was highlighted as an area of high risk of late diagnosis of HIV – two thirds of all HIV diagnoses in the area are late, PHE said at the time of the pilot's launch. There were two deaths in Cumbria in 2015 which could have been prevented by an earlier diagnosis, it stressed.

Non-profit lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group OutReach Cumbria is hosting the project with Cumbria LPC and Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, with support from Cumbria County Council.

The project aims “to make HIV testing an everyday occurrence” in pharmacies, PHE said. The pharmacies rolling out the service are in areas with greater levels of high risk groups, it added.

Where are the pharmacies located?

Map credit: Cumbria LPC

Would you like to be commissioned to deliver an HIV test service?

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