Since the beginning of the service in December last year, the 32 pharmacies that are signed up have delivered more than 20,000 lateral flow tests and were paid in excess of £200,000.
The free rapid lateral flow antigen tests are only offered to asymptomatic residents and are part of a national pilot scheme introduced by Dudley Council, which sees pharmacies remunerated £11 per test.
Due to its success, the public health team in Dudley has extended the programme until the end of June, Michelle Dyoss, vice chair of Dudley local pharmaceutical committee (LPC) and one of the directors of contract procuring company Central Health Solutions, told C+D last week (March 10).
Scope to expand
Ms Dyoss is working with pharmacies in other areas – including Birmingham, Shropshire and Worcestershire – that are now offering the lateral flow tests.
The success of the scheme in Dudley is another example of pharmacies being able to quickly step up and serve the community, Ms Dyoss said.
“Pharmacies have been providing these tests for local businesses and shops that are open nearby, with regular employees coming in and getting tested once or twice a week,” she explained.
“Yes, [the service] has [brought] new revenue. But it's also about protecting the community where that pharmacy sits and getting real satisfaction out of thinking we are doing our best to protect people.”
Ms Dyoss believes the scheme is likely to extend even further in the coming months, as existing venues used for testing such as community centres begin to re-open to the public.
With the closure of testing sites and a continuing need for regular swab tests, pharmacies will have an increasingly important role to play, Ms Dyoss predicted.
Lateral flow testing in Staffordshire
Around 20 Staffordshire pharmacies are also offering COVID-19 lateral flow tests and more are expected to start offering the service, according to Tania Cork, North Staffordshire and Stoke LPC chief operating officer.
Nearly 80 pharmacies have already submitted expressions of interest and some of them were expected to begin testing patients last week, Dr Cork told C+D ahead of the extra pharmacies coming on board.
Under this service, participating pharmacies receive a £10 fee for every test offered as well as a one-off payment of £150 to cover setup fees and training, which involves watching a short 30-minute online video presentation.
Patients can book their self-test appointments online in advance, but walk-ins are also welcome, Dr Cork said.
Following the test, which is supervised by a trained pharmacist, results are communicated to the patients by text in 20-30 minutes.
Patients will be told not to attend the pharmacy if they start to display symptoms of COVID-19.
Tests “as common as buying milk”
Dr Cork stressed the importance of the service in showing the local authority “how pharmacies can help with the pandemic”, and said the scheme is likely to continue until tests are no longer necessary.
“[The service ensures] that the public have somewhere close to come and get their tests [done], because we know these tests are going to be just as common as going out and getting your bread and milk,” Dr Cork added.
Both Dr Cork and Ms Dyoss agree that lateral flow testing should be commissioned as a national pharmacy service.