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PDA slams NHSE for ‘refusing’ to stagger Pharmacy First introduction

The pharmacy union has criticised NHS England (NHSE) for leaving pharmacists under “enormous stress” after the “hurried launch” of the new Pharmacy First service.  

 The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) said last week (January 31) that NHSE had “refused” its request to “phase in the introduction” of Pharmacy First, which launched last week.

The union said that the new service is “on paper…a very good service that will benefit the public” but that it has “been introduced in a hurried fashion and without the necessary consultation or preparation” with pharmacists.

It added that “examples of the hurried launch in England are clear for all to see”, including the finalising of protocols in December and “software required to operate the service” only being made available “on the morning of the launch”.

Last month, the PDA revealed that it had lobbied NHSE and the government to phase in the seven common conditions covered by the new service,


“Enormous stress”


The PDA said that Pharmacy First’s short deadlines have meant that “many [pharmacists] have been expected to undertake the training after work in the evenings or at weekends”.

And it added that the “hurried nature of the introduction is causing enormous stress to a workforce that is currently massively under-resourced”.

The union said that pharmacists have been left in a “very difficult situation” where they are required to “operate the full pharmacy service as well as the new one being introduced and extensively promoted by the government”.

With the number of consultations being transferred from GPs to pharmacists under the scheme estimated at between 10 and 30 million, this equates “between one and two days of additional consultation time for the community pharmacist per week”, it added.

And the PDA warned that “there is a worrying level of misinformation being promoted about the scheme” that has given patients “the impression they will be able to walk into a pharmacy and be immediately seen”.

It called “upon NHSE to work with the media to manage expectations more appropriately to reduce patient frustration”, which could lead to incidents of “abuse or violence directed at pharmacy staff”.

C+D approached NHSE and the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) for comment.

The comments come after the union released results from a major survey last month showing that just 4% of over 3,500 pharmacists felt confident that pharmacies could deliver Pharmacy First services in addition to their current workload.

Almost half of the pharmacists surveyed said that pharmacies do not have enough staff to “safely” deliver existing services.

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

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