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CPhO: Pharmacy First is ‘significant improvement’ to NHS care

The chief pharmaceutical officer (CPhO) for England has applauded community pharmacy in setting up Pharmacy First amid warnings it has left the sector in “survival mode”.

The Pharmacy First service is a “significant improvement in access to NHS patient care”, CPhO for NHS England (NHSE) David Webb said.

Webb made the comment during a keynote presentation at the Clinical Pharmacy Congress (CPC) last week (May 10) while thanking those involved in setting up the service, particularly community pharmacies.

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

He added that Pharmacy First will “undoubtedly…relieve some of the pressures on general practice” but that the service is more about “developing the clinical skills of community pharmacists” and “paving the way for future developments”.

This includes independent prescribing (IP), which could “potentially extend to [treat] those with long-term conditions”, he said.

Read more: Northern Ireland to launch raft of new services and ‘expand’ Pharmacy First

“Community pharmacies deserve our appreciation and support for the work to develop and embrace new clinical services as part of the NHS,” Webb told delegates. “It has put us all in a much better place for future developments.”

Meanwhile, he addressed concerns over antimicrobial resistance (AMR), saying that “surveillance of human exposure to antibiotics will continue”.

“Data on antibiotics supplied under patient group directions (PGDs) by community pharmacy will be analysed alongside GP prescription data,” Webb added.

Read more: Pharmacists can 'learn a lesson' from vets over AMR, says DH

NHSE head of delivery for community pharmacy clinical strategy Pallavi Dawda reiterated that the clinical pathways for sore throat and urinary tract infection (UTI) are the most used.

However, sore throat rates are expected to go down with a shift towards infected insect bites as we enter the summer months, she added.

Dawda said that it was “reassuring and really great to see” that there have been consultations for “all of” the seven Pharmacy First conditions, showing that “it is appropriate to be seen in a community pharmacy” and although the service is currently in its “early stages”, it is “still being utilised.”


“Slow, challenging and underfunded”


However, it comes as Community Pharmacy England (CPE) this week (May 13) said that pharmacy owners have described Pharmacy First as “slow”, “challenging” and “underfunded”.

The negotiator held a briefing with more than 500 pharmacy owners and their representatives, who also highlighted the importance of improving GPs’ understanding of the service, it said.

Read more: BMA: GPs not ‘reluctant’ to engage but Pharmacy First rolled out ‘too quickly’

An audience poll confirmed that pharmacy owners “strongly believe that without investment, the volume of work pharmacies provide is unsustainable”, the negotiator added.

“Unsustainable pressures” and the “viability” of pharmacy businesses were “major concerns” raised by attendees about the next twelve months, with many indicating that they were in “survival mode” and require urgent certainty over sustainable funding, it said.

The negotiator this month announced plans to record data on the extra unpaid “informal advice” delivered by pharmacies since the launch of the Pharmacy First service to inform its ongoing negotiations on the next community pharmacy funding deal.  

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