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Sector calls for ‘clearer Pharmacy First messaging’ amid patient aggression

The pharmacy negotiator has highlighted the need for clearer messaging over what is and isn’t covered by the new common conditions service following reports of patients “yelling and throwing items” at pharmacists.

Last month, NHS England (NHSE) launched a media campaign to “encourage the public to access” the new Pharmacy First common conditions service. 

But now Community Pharmacy England (CPE) has urged the commissioner to make the eligibility criteria for the service clearer.

“We and others, including patient representatives, have been highlighting the ongoing need for the NHS Pharmacy First marketing campaign to make the eligibility criteria for the service as clear as possible,” a CPE spokesperson told C+D today (March 6).

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

They added that the negotiator understands NHSE is “actively looking at this across [its] channels”.

It comes after CPE this week (March 4) highlighted a report from iNews that it said found “clearer Pharmacy First messaging from the NHS” is needed to “reduce abuse on staff”.

Last week (March 1), the news outlet said that pharmacists have suffered “aggression from people due to restrictions in place for certain ailments” since the Pharmacy First service’s launch in January.

Read more: Pharmacy Faults: All the gaffes from Pharmacy First's launch day

It reported patients being “turned away” and “abuse” aimed at pharmacy staff, with unclear messaging leading to “patients yelling and throwing items”.

Pharmacists want to see “improved messaging” over the Pharmacy First service so that the public know “exactly what they are entitled to”, according to the iNews report.

Meanwhile, pharmacies have reported experiencing long Pharmacy First consultations, most of which do not reach the gateway criteria for payment, and that the service is “harder to implement” than expected - all amid ongoing delays to promised IT updates.

 

Incorrect referrals

 

The calls for “improved messaging” also come amid claims from MPs that patients are being incorrectly referred to Pharmacy First.

Conservative MP for Amber Valley Nigel Mills yesterday (March 5) told parliament that “some pharmacists report confusion because the ear infection service applies only to under 18s and patients are being referred to pharmacies when they should not be”.

He asked pharmacy minister Dame Andrea Leadsom to either “extend the service to over-18s” or “ensure that NHS communications are clear that this service is only for children”.

Read more: ‘A lot of failures’: Less than 40% of Pharmacy First consultations secure fee

Dame Andrea said that Mr Mills raised an “important point” and that she would “write to him” about the issue.

An NHSE spokesperson said that it is “already running an extensive advertising campaign on the support patients can now receive at their pharmacist”.

“For those that do not come across the ads running across TV, social media and in public spaces, they can find out more information by visiting the NHS website or by speaking to their local pharmacist,” they added.

 

“NHS must step in”

 

Meanwhile, CPE chief executive Janet Morrison this week said that it has “been great to see thousands of people already benefiting from the new Pharmacy First service and to hear the positivity from pharmacists who are enjoying using their professional skills”.

But she added that “pharmacies are also fighting for survival in the face of ongoing funding cuts and intolerable operational pressures”.

She said that “pharmacies can’t provide this service, or any others, if they can’t afford to keep their lights on”.

Read more: Sector bodies launch manifesto calling for ‘expanded’ Pharmacy First service

The government and the NHS “must step in to help,” she added.

Yesterday, CPE, the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA), the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) published a joint manifesto for the sector.

The “#VotePharmacy” manifesto calls for an “enhanced Pharmacy First service for England, mirroring the highly successful approaches taken in Scotland and Wales”.

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