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Pharmacy First, contraception and BP check services ‘bundled’ from 2025

All Pharmacy First pharmacies must also provide the expanded hypertension and contraception services by March 2025, the negotiator, commissioner and government have told contractors.

Pharmacies that have signed up to offer the new Pharmacy First service must also offer both the expanded blood pressure check and contraception services by March 2025, Community Pharmacy England (CPE), NHS England (NHSE) and the government announced last week (November 16).

In a joint letter to contractors, the bodies said that by March 31 2025 “at the latest, all contractors delivering Pharmacy First” – which CPE said will launch on January 31 next year subject to IT systems being ready - will have to offer all three services to qualify for some fees.

Read more: Launch dates announced for Pharmacy First and contraception services

CPE announced last week (November 16) that it “delayed a proposed deadline for linking eligibility for the £1,000 Pharmacy First monthly payment” to the provision of both services “given the capacity issues in the sector”.

In a briefing attended by C+D the previous day, the negotiator’s chief executive Janet Morrison said that CPE was “very anxious” that an earlier deadline “might be a real disincentive to people signing up” to deliver the advanced service.

Read more: Pharmacy First funding breakdown: Upfront, monthly and consultation fees

She said that CPE “managed to push back the deadline…to allow us to learn from the growth of the services”.

However, it remains unclear when the original deadline for the “bundling” of the three services was planned to be.

 

“All or nothing”

 

CPE also revealed in the briefing that the new Pharmacy First service is “all or nothing”, with all bricks-and-mortar pharmacies required to provide all seven common conditions covered by the service and all distance selling pharmacies (DSPs) to provide all but the earache pathway.

The existing community pharmacist consultation service (CPCS) will also be absorbed into the Pharmacy First service from January 31.

Read more: CPCS to be ‘replaced’ by Pharmacy First service from February

Commenting on the “bundling” together of services, Ms Morrison said that this was “very much driven by what will make sense to people on the high street…going into the pharmacy”.

She added that ministers wanted “the public to understand what kind of pharmacy” contractors are offering “and what’s available there”.

Read more: DH and NHSE ‘rejected’ contraception service fee uplift, says CPE

NHSE last week (November 16) announced the long-awaited details of its primary care recovery plan reforms – including launching the new Pharmacy First service from “early next year” and expanding the pharmacy contraception and blood pressure check services from next month.

Under the new advanced Pharmacy First 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.

Read more: ‘Huge vote of confidence’: Sector reacts to the primary care recovery plan details

And the current pharmacy contraception service will expand to include the initiation of oral contraception from December 1 2023, when the hypertension case-finding service will also re-launch with an “increased skill-mix and renewed focus” on ambulatory blood pressure monitoring (ABPM).

Announcements about the new services have been broadly welcomed by the pharmacy sector – although some warned that core pharmacy funding remains a concern.

Check the C+D site for the latest coverage on this developing story

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