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Councils extend pharmacy lateral flow service until March due to ‘high’ COVID rates

A standalone in-pharmacy lateral flow testing scheme commissioned by 10 local authorities in England has been extended until March 2022 due to the “high” rates of COVID-19. 

The service operates separately from the NHS community pharmacy COVID-19 lateral flow device distribution service – also known as Pharmacy Collect, which allows asymptomatic patients across England to collect test kits free of charge from their local pharmacy.

Contract procuring company Central Health Solutions worked with commissioners and community pharmacy networks across the UK to help introduce the service, which was first launched as a pilot in December 2020 across 23 pharmacies in Dudley, West Midlands.

The service is now live in 298 pharmacies located across 10 local authorities: Birmingham; Dudley Borough; Herefordshire Council; Wolverhampton Council; Stoke; Shropshire; Staffordshire; Telford and Wrekin; Worcestershire Council and Gloucestershire Council.

While the service had continued past its expected end date of June 2021, Tania Cork, chief operating officer at North Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Local Pharmaceutical Committee, told C+D yesterday (November 11) that the contract has been extended until March 31, 2022 “because the COVID-19 rates [around the country] are still high”.

She said: “Our area is committed to using pharmacies to support the lateral flow testing service.”

“The council has a responsibility to provide lateral flow tests to its population and saw community pharmacies as an ideal and cost-effective way of delivering the service,” Dr Cork added.

 

Pharmacies paid set-up fee of £150

 

All participating pharmacies are paid a set-up fee of £150 to ensure that training and premises are fit for purpose and a £10 fee per supervised lateral flow test. 

All tests are provided free of charge by the councils alongside personal protective equipment.

Asymptomatic patients are advised to book a lateral flow test appointment via an automated booking system on the Central Health Solutions website, or by contacting their pharmacy.

Once the patient has self-administered a nose and throat swab under the supervision of pharmacy staff, they are advised to leave the pharmacy. After 30 minutes, staff can register the result on the government website and log the activity on PharmOutcomes. Pharmacy staff do not need to inform patients of their results, as this will be done through the national NHS test and trace system.

Pharmacies that have not yet signed up but are located within the ten local authorities are encouraged to join the scheme by contacting Central Health Solutions.

In September, a COVID-19 test kit distribution service launched across 420 pharmacies in Northern Ireland. Meanwhile, Scotland launched its own Pharmacy Collect service in June, with Wales following in early July.

Earlier this week, C+D revealed that community pharmacy contractors in England had earned more than £20m for COVID-19 lateral flow test kit transactions in the first five months of the Pharmacy Collect service.

 

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