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No plans to expand Pharmacy First conditions ‘at present’, says Leadsom

The government has said that no assessment has been made “so far” into expanding the new common conditions service beyond the initial seven conditions it will cover. 

New health minister Andrea Leadsom said last week (November 20) that “at present”, the government has “no plans” to expand the conditions covered by the upcoming Pharmacy First service.

Earlier this month, NHS England (NHSE) announced that pharmacies will be able to deliver the Pharmacy First advanced service from “early next year”.

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.

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

Currently, the conditions covered by the service include sinusitis, sore throat, earache, infected insect bite, impetigo, shingles and uncomplicated urinary tract infections (UTIs) in women.

Ms Leadsom made the comments in parliament after Labour MP for Bootle Peter Dowd asked whether the health secretary “has plans to expand the common conditions service beyond the initial seven conditions”.

Read more: All the headlines: Primary care recovery plan funding details revealed

“At present, there are no plans to expand the seven conditions,” she said.

However, she stressed that “uptake and delivery of Pharmacy First will be closely monitored”.

 

No assessment “so far”

 

This week (November 27), opposition whip Baroness Merron also asked the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) if it had considered “what other conditions the Pharmacy First service could cover”.

Parliamentary under-secretary for health and social care Lord Markham said that “no assessment has been made so far of other conditions Pharmacy First could cover”.

Read more: C+D Snapshot: Do pharmacists think five extra essential services are feasible?

He said that NHSE’s “pathfinder programme”, which is testing different prescribing models in around 200 community pharmacies, will examine the incorporation of independent prescribing into “clinical services available to the public…in the longer-term”.

Lord Markham added that “a detailed formative and summative evaluation” of the programme will “inform any potential future commissioning decisions”.

 

Are more services feasible?

 

A C+D snapshot poll conducted in September showed that community pharmacists are split on the feasibility of offering more services as proposed in a recent King’s Fund and Nuffield Trust report.

The additional services suggested by the think tanks included Enhanced Healthy Living Pharmacy activities such as social prescribing, as well as deprescribing and the amendment of prescriptions.

The poll showed that 45% of respondents would only take on the services proposed in the vision document “if the money is good”.

However, 39% of respondents said that the suggested services would be “too much” for their pharmacy.

Read more: ‘Very positive’ but ‘not perfect’: Contractors on recovery plan reforms

Respondents said that staffing, workload and premises issues were among their concerns about new services.

Meanwhile, contractors told C+D this month that “"core funding is still a problem" regardless of Pharmacy First funding.

CPE chief executive Janet Morrison told C+D that she "hopes to be back in the negotiating room soon" to start discussing what the next community pharmacy contractual framework will look like, and is continuing to push for increased core funding to the sector.

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