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NHSE campaign will ‘encourage public’ to use Pharmacy First from mid-February

NHS England (NHSE) has said that a national marketing campaign advertising the new Pharmacy First service will be launched next month.  

In a letter sent to community pharmacies yesterday (January 25), NHSE confirmed that the new Pharmacy First common conditions service will launch next week on Wednesday January 31.

Previously, the pharmacy negotiator said that the service would launch on January 31 subject to IT systems being ready and later that pharmacies could “start providing” the Pharmacy First service officially from February 1.


But the letter said that “all four approved IT system suppliers are upgrading their systems ready” for January 31 so that pharmacies “automatically have the Pharmacy First screens to support the clinical pathways and send data for payments and monitoring” to the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA). 

The letter, signed by chief pharmaceutical officer (CPhO) for England David Webb, national director for primary care Dr Amanda Doyle and national medical director for primary care Dr Claire Fuller, also announced a six-week marketing campaign to promote the service.

A “national marketing campaign…that will encourage the public to access” the Pharmacy First service will be launched “from mid-February 2024”, it said.

It added that the marketing will advertise the “community pharmacy services for common conditions”, which will allow pharmacies to treat seven common conditions without the need for a GP appointment or prescription.

And the letter said that NHSE expects activity for the service to “increase gradually following the launch”.

The NHSE bosses also revealed “that more than 10,000 pharmacies...have registered to deliver the service to date”.

This is an increase of around 200 pharmacies in just over a week, as last week (January 17)) the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) told C+D that 9,831 contactors had signed up for the service so far.


“A significant moment for pharmacy”


The letter added that NHSE is also “developing a communications toolkit for integrated care boards (ICBs) to use to share information across their channels”.

It said that NHSE “will produce reports to monitor service implementation” including its “safety and quality”, which will be “distributed to ICB commissioners starting shortly after launch”.

It stressed that “the success and full benefit of the service…will be in the building and sustaining of local relationships between general practice and community pharmacy teams”.

And NHSE said that it “encourages ICBs to work collaboratively across their systems to support the implementation of this service”, adding that the rollout of “Pharmacy First is a significant moment for pharmacy, primary care and the wider NHS”.


Pharmacy First latest


It comes after the pharmacy union last week (January 19) warned that almost half of “more than 3,500” pharmacists surveyed about the Pharmacy First service said that pharmacies do not have enough staff to “safely” deliver existing services, let alone new ones.

At the time, NHSE stressed that the service had been "welcomed by pharmacists" across the country.

Yesterday (January 25), C+D reported that infection diagnostics may be added to the services in a bid to reduce antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

And earlier this week (January 22), health minister Maria Caulfield suggested that the new Pharmacy First service could be used as a “model” for administering the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine, amid the current measles outbreak.

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