Mr Hancock said he was “very interested to explore what contribution pharmacy can make to the NHS”, CPW chief executive Russell Goodway told C+D after the health secretary’s appearance at the Welsh Conservative party conference earlier this month (May 4).
Mr Hancock visited the CPW stand and stayed “for about 5-10 minutes”, during which he “asked us to explain the common ailments service and the Choose Pharmacy platform on which it’s operated”, Mr Goodway said.
“Then he looked at the briefing that we had on the sore throat test and treat service [and] asked us to send the evaluation to him,” he added.
Last year, the Welsh government announced it would pilot the on-the-spot sore throat swab service – designed to relieve pressure on GPs and tackle antibiotic resistance – in 70 pharmacies across the Cwm Taf and Betsi Cadwaladr local health board areas.
“Willingness” to commission sore throat service
Mr Goodway said there is now an “eagerness” and “willingness” to roll out a sore throat test and treat service across Wales, as results from the pilot have shown “what benefits it can bring”.
“Cwm Taf have already made the decision to roll it out across the whole of their community pharmacy network, and I think Betsi [Cadwaladr] will follow soon,” Mr Goodway told C+D.
He “senses” it won't be long until the remaining five health boards also commission the pharmacy service.
“A lot more [patients] are walking away without an antibiotic than was traditionally the case if they visited a GP surgery,” Mr Goodway claimed.
Feedback from the service so far seems to suggest patients are “content” with the advice from pharmacists that antibiotics are not always the answer for sore throats, he added.
Pharmacy's "greater contribution" to the NHS
While Mr Hancock “didn’t specifically say 'community pharmacy' until I nudged him in that direction”, Mr Goodway claimed, “he does think [pharmacy] can make a greater contribution” to the future of the NHS.
“[I] do detect that there is a slight difference in England in terms of emphasis on where pharmacists can be deployed, whether it’s in hospitals or GP practices,” Mr Goodway said.
“Whereas in Wales, [there’s] a real commitment to exploiting the potential of the community pharmacy network.”
In March, Northern Ireland’s acting chief pharmaceutical officer Cathy Harrison told C+D the country was looking at the Welsh model of a common ailments service to “modernise” and extend its existing scheme.