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PSNC ‘still awaiting news’ on Pharmacy First service amid October launch hints

The pharmacy negotiator has said that it is “still awaiting news” from the government about Pharmacy First amid hints that a national service could launch from October.

A notice published by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) said that it expected to issue “a call for research” evaluating a “Pharmacy First” service, alongside the “potential roll out of this common conditions service in England”.

Read more: Public ‘overwhelmingly’ backs Pharmacy First, PSNC survey reveals

The organisation – which is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) – added that this would focus on “understanding the impact, safety, cost effectiveness and acceptability of an expanded service to treat common conditions in community pharmacy”.

“Subject to successful commissioning, this service will commence no earlier than the end of October 2023”, NIHR said.

“Still awaiting news”

But the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) told C+D yesterday (April 20) that it is “still awaiting news from government on whether a Pharmacy First service…will be commissioned as part of the primary care recovery plan”. 

PSNC has previously said that it hopes the long-awaited recovery plan will include a fully funded Pharmacy First service, which it understands is “supported by ministers”.

The negotiator proposed the service to the government back in March last year, it said.

Read more: PSNC: Pharmacy First must not be left to ‘piecemeal’ local commissioning

PSNC CEO Janet Morrison added that the negotiator “strongly” believes that a national Pharmacy First service “would be a key solution to help improve patient access to the NHS and to support our colleagues in general practice”.

She reiterated that it is also “the best chance to get significant additional funds into community pharmacy”.

But sector leaders have also indicated that the government’s primary care recovery plan, expected “imminently”, could see Pharmacy First services commissioned locally instead.

Not an announcement or guarantee

A DH spokesperson stressed that the NIHR research alert is not an announcement of a new community pharmacy service, but a pre-call for possible research alongside a potential rollout.

It also does not guarantee a research call will be advertised, they said.

Read more: Pharmacy First service ‘most likely’ route to new funding, PSNC boss predicts

They added that the DH has not commissioned any research regarding the feasibility, impact and cost of a Pharmacy First service in England. 

However, the DH has looked carefully at existing locally commissioned schemes in England and the devolved nations, they said.

Read more: Local Pharmacy First scheme in place for 20 years to be axed this month

NHS England (NHSE) declined to comment.

NIHR said that the research opportunity was “anticipated” to open in “late March/early April”, with a “potential advert date” of April 27 and further details to be published “in due course”.

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