COVID-19 test kit distribution service launches in 420 NI pharmacies
A lateral flow device distribution service – Pharmacy Collect – has launched across 420 pharmacies in Northern Ireland, the country’s health minister Robin Swann has announced.
The Pharmacy Collect NI Service allows asymptomatic people to collect lateral flow device test kits free of charge from community pharmacies and “significantly increases the range of locations that people who require rapid tests can access them”, Mr Swann said announcing the service last week (September 3).
Pharmacies in the country that participate in the service will receive £1.50 per transaction, as well as a £450 setup fee. The kits will be supplied by Alliance Healthcare, according to the service specification.
“One in three people who have COVID-19 have no symptoms, or are pre-symptomatic,” Mr Swann said.
“By engaging in rapid COVID-19 testing, we can help keep each other safe and play our part in helping society return to normality.”
In March, the Pharmacy Collect service was first launched in England, and by April 19 was offered by more than nine in 10 pharmacies in England. The service then launched in Scotland on June 6, and in Wales from early July.
Pharmacies participating in the service will ask patients whether it is their first time using the service, why they need the tests, and how old the person using the test is. They can use discretion as to whether to ask the questions on repeat visits.
Cathy Harrison, Northern Ireland’s chief pharmaceutical officer, said: “The contribution of community pharmacy teams to the COVID-19 pandemic response has been invaluable and the introduction of the new Pharmacy Collect service will improve access to testing for the general public.
“This is another step forward to people getting their normal lives back. Many people with COVID-19 have mild or no symptoms, but they can continue to spread the virus.
“Rapid tests, in conjunction with the wearing of masks, regular hand washing and social distancing, can help to prevent onward transmission of the virus.”
NHS England and NHS Improvement announced last month that the Pharmacy Collect service in England would be extended until September 30 and details of a “revised” service would be made available soon.
Pharmacies across England, Scotland and Wales participating in the service were told that Alliance Healthcare would be supplying Acon Flowflex tests instead of the Innova test kits once existing stock was depleted.