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CPE to audit ‘huge amount of unpaid work’ triggered by Pharmacy First

The negotiator has announced plans to record data on the extra unpaid “informal advice” delivered by pharmacies since the launch of the Pharmacy First service.   

Next month, pharmacy teams will be asked to collect data on the amount of work that “falls outside” of funded services due to the “increasing number of people replying on pharmacies,” the negotiator announced last week (May 3).  

Community Pharmacy England (CPE) said it “knew that the launch of Pharmacy First could lead to a ‘halo’ effect of ever-more people seeking advice from community pharmacies – some of which falls outside of the funded service”.

“It is critical that we get an accurate picture of how much of this is taking place,” it added.

Starting on June 3, CPE will ask pharmacies to “record data about patients seeking informal advice outside of the Pharmacy First service over the course of any single day within that week”, it said.

It added that the audit is “as straightforward for pharmacy teams as it can be and full instructions will be made available shortly”.


Data used in negotiations


The negotiator said that the audit will provide “a critical measurement of the levels of unfunded care that the public receives from community pharmacies”.

“The results will be of great benefit to our campaigning and lobbying work in the coming months” and “will be used directly in our negotiations with the government and the NHS,” it added.

The audit will help the negotiator “make the case for increased funding for the sector and for the further services the government needs pharmacies to deliver”, it said.

But when asked whether this means the current contract negotiations will be delayed into June, CPE told C+D yesterday (May 7) that the audit has no connection to the timing of negotiations and that it will start to use the data as soon as it has it.


“An important tool”


Commenting on the announcement, CPE chief executive Janet Morrison said that the new data will be “an important tool” to “show government the huge amount of unpaid work pharmacy teams do for the NHS”.

“Since Pharmacy First was first touted, our committee thought it may have a ‘halo effect’ in driving more people to pharmacies for health care information and advice that does not meet the gateway criteria for a paid consultation,” she added.

“Pharmacy owners are telling us that this is already the case, so it’s critical that we measure this – and quickly,” she said.

She thanked pharmacy teams “in advance” for their participation. 

It comes as the CCA has called for “targeted support” for GPs to increase referrals and said that a public promotional campaign will be “critical” to allow pharmacies to meet Pharmacy First targets amid modest growth in the service’s first two months. 

Last week, C+D reported that a new Healthwatch report into the pharmacy sector found that the “ingrained” public “preference” for a doctor must change if Pharmacy First is to succeed.

Meanwhile, a fifth of pharmacies polled by the Independent Pharmacies Association (IPA) – formerly known as the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) - believed that this month’s increase in Pharmacy First minimum thresholds will be “unachievable”.

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