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Pharmacy First: Sector must prove it can ‘manage’ antimicrobial stewardship

NHS England (NHSE) pharmacy leaders have stressed that the commissioner needs to “be able to demonstrate” that community pharmacy can manage antimicrobial stewardship for the upcoming Pharmacy First service. 

NHSE director for pharmacy Ali Sparke told delegates at the Pharmacy Show today (October 16) that the common conditions service announced in May is “not an antibiotic service”.

He said that it was an “important point” that treatment of the seven conditions identified as part of the service should not just be about providing antibiotics but instead “about treating patients properly… and [finding] the alternatives to prescription medicine where that is necessary”.

Read more: CPE ‘hopes to have concluded’ £645m funding negotiations by November

Mr Sparke, who was co-hosting a keynote talk with NHSE chief pharmaceutical officer (CPhO) for England David Webb, also revealed that NHSE is “working with” the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) and has agreed that it will “commission a piece of evaluation to look at the implications” of the service for “antimicrobial resistance” (AMR).

He said that the evaluation is “critical” to “make sure that we've got all the evidence in the right place to move forward properly”.

Read more: Claims Pharmacy First could fuel antibiotic resistance ‘disingenuous’

“We need to be able to demonstrate that community pharmacy is as adept as other parts of the NHS in managing antimicrobial stewardship,” he added.

Mr Sparke said that NHSE has “done a brilliant job over the last few years” of “demonstrating that [it has] a grip on the risks” - including through “prevention and control e-learning” that he said 54,399 registered pharmacy staff have now completed.

He added that the training, alongside a “huge number” of “antibiotic guardians”, have “been a critical part of the argument that we’ve been able to make…to different parts of government” to show “how ready community pharmacy is to take on the next step”.


“Disingenuous” concerns


Earlier this year, the Pharmacy First service came under attack from a group of scientists who claimed that enabling community pharmacists to treat seven minor illnesses could lead to antibiotic resistance.

Pharmacists hit back at the claims, branding them “disingenuous”.

Read more: Pharmacy First set for national launch ‘by end of 2023’ following consultation

Last month, Community Pharmacy England (CPE) said that it hopes to have finished negotiations on the promised £645 million pharmacy funding backing the new service by its next committee meeting in November.

Previously, NHSE said that the Pharmacy First national service could launch in England “by the end of 2023”.


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