Launch dates announced for Pharmacy First and contraception services
A new pharmacy contraception service will launch next month, while the new Pharmacy First service will begin “early next year”, NHS England (NHSE) has announced.
NHSE today (November 16) announced the long-awaited details of its primary care recovery plan reforms, which were first announced back in May.
It said that as part of the “major expansion of primary care services”, pharmacies across England will begin offering a “new contraceptive service in December”.
The service will see “almost half a million women” able to access the contraceptive pill at their local pharmacy next year without needing to contact their GP first, NHSE said.
This includes pharmacies being able to initiate oral contraception supply “for the first time across England” as well as repeat supply for those who are already taking the pill, it added.
As more pharmacies begin offering the contraceptive service, the nhs.uk website will be updated to allow patients to check which pharmacy near to them is offering access to contraception, it said.
The pharmacy negotiator confirmed that the expansion of the pharmacy contraception service to include the new initiation of oral contraception will begin from December 1.
Pharmacy First launching “early next year”
NHSE also announced that the new Pharmacy First common ailments service will launch “from early next year”.
Community Pharmacy England (CPE) said that the launch is due on January 31, subject to the necessary IT being ready.
Under the service, patients will be able to get treatment for seven common conditions directly from a pharmacy without the need for a GP appointment or prescription - covering sinusitis, sore throat, earache, infected insect bite, impetigo, shingles and uncomplicated urinary tract infections (UTIs) in women.
NHSE reiterated that the “ambitious blueprint” aims to free “up to 10 million GP appointments a year by next winter”.
And it also announced a commitment to deliver 2.5 million pharmacy blood pressure checks for “at-risk patients” by Spring 2025 – with pharmacists “[ramping] up” delivery “over the next year”.
CPE said that this relaunch of the hypertension case-finding service will also begin from December 1.
How did we get here?
In May, NHSE and the government released their primary care recovery plan – which announced a community pharmacy funding injection of “up to £645 million” over two years to “expand” services.
They said that the cash would fund a Pharmacy First service as well as expansions to the pharmacy oral contraceptive and blood pressure programmes – although it remained unclear how this would be divided.
NHSE said at the time that the Pharmacy First national service could launch in England “by the end of 2023”.
But the promised funding and services have faced delays, with CPE admitting that progress on negotiations has been “slower than we hoped”.
Meanwhile, the pharmacy contraception service has proved controversial – coming under fire from the sector over a lack of funding.
In May, the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) restated plans to launch the second tier of the national community pharmacy contraception service in October – although this has now been delayed by two months.
The tier one launch of the contraception service was especially controversial, with Day Lewis announcing that it would pause its rollout of the scheme until "progress" was made with funding and London LPCs urging their 1,498 pharmacies to opt out.
Check the C+D site for the latest coverage on this developing story