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Public expectation may exceed ‘scope’ of Pharmacy First, warns FIP

The International Pharmaceutical Federation (FIP) has said that it expects “challenges” around managing the public’s expectations for the upcoming Pharmacy First service in England.  

A new FIP report comparing pharmacy-led common ailments schemes across 24 different countries, published earlier this month (October 13), said that although England’s scheme has not yet started it anticipates “challenges around…marketing” the scheme to the public.

“Public expectation” for the Pharmacy First service “may exceed what is possible within the scope” of the scheme, it added.

The international body found that “many media announcements” had “already” been made about Pharmacy First but that it was “unsure what the engagement strategy will be” and had “concerns around managing patient expectation of the scope of the scheme.”

In addition to managing public expectation, FIP noted that it anticipates “challenges” with “trained support staff”, “paid training time for pharmacists” and “IT connectivity with GPs”, which it said was currently reliant on “unwieldy and clunky systems”.

And FIP’s analysis of different common ailments schemes across the globe found that “public confidence-building” was “key” to ensuring “successful implementation.”


“Operational challenges persist”


FIP member the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) shared the report with its own members over the weekend (October 21), saying it had “[contributed] to the initiative”.

The union also shared a comment from FIP Global President Paul Sinclair AM who said that “common ailments schemes enhance convenience of access to care and patient quality of life” as well as reducing GP workloads by presenting “cost-effective alternatives”.

However, he added that “operational challenges persist”, especially in “inconsistencies in service requirements and stakeholder engagement”.

Mr Sinclair also stressed that “fostering a collaborative ethos between other members of the primary healthcare team and pharmacists remained crucial”.


Funding delays


England’s Pharmacy First service is set to allow patients to get a prescription from their pharmacist for seven minor illnesses including earache and urinary tract infection as part of a two-year £645 million government investment announced in May.

But the promised funding has faced delays, with Community Pharmacy England (CPE) admitting that progress on negotiations has been “slower than we hoped”.

Last month, CPE revealed that it hopes “to have concluded negotiations” by the end of November.

Meanwhile, the doctors’ union called for dispensing GPs to have access to “all funding and services” commissioned to pharmacies in evidence submitted to the health and social care committee’s (HSCC) pharmacy services inquiry and published last week (October 18).

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