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NHS England clarifies position on Boots sore throat scheme

NHS England: The sore throat service is a not a national scheme

NHS England will only commit to supporting the “scaling” of a sore throat ‘test and treat’ service first piloted by Boots in 2014, C+D has learned.

NHS England is backing Boots’ scheme through its NHS Innovation Accelerator (NIA) programme, which is designed to fast-track new treatments and technologies into the health service, it said.

However, the commissioning body stopped short of committing to a fully-funded national scheme.

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee stressed on Monday (November 14) that “no central funding is being made available to commission this service” and it will be up to local clinical commissioning groups to decide whether to roll out the scheme in their areas.

NHS England told C+D yesterday (November 16) that “full plans” on how the scheme may work – including how it will be funded – “have not been developed”.

“The sore throat test and treat service is not a national scheme”, NHS England added. But the NIA programme “will support scaling” of the service.

"The NIA has been successful in supporting 17 innovations to be scaled across 389 NHS organisations since its launch in 2015," it added.

The scheme, designed to prevent antibiotic resistance and reduce GPs’ workload, will see community pharmacists conduct throat swab tests to determine whether patients need antibiotics.

Boots estimates that an additional 800,000 patients could potentially be seen in community pharmacy, rather than general practice, if the service is rolled out nationwide.

However, C+D readers have raised concerns around the benefits of the scheme and how it will be funded.

Stuart Gale, chief pharmacist, owner and manager of the Frost Pharmacy Group in Oxfordshire, is calling for more clarity on the service. Read his thoughts in the C+D blog.

What do you think of the sore throat service?

Meera Sharma, Community pharmacist

In other words, we support this service, but like every other pharmacy service there is no funding for it - so we'll support whoever wants to conduct it - great news! Plus, still doesn't explain the stats behind this service (zero cost-effectivess, no evidence that it will reduce antibiotic resistance - how exactly? and major conflict of interest - the assessor and supplier are the same person and collecting a fee for both services!) I thought the whole principle of the current NHS model was to use robusr evidence-bases, and avoid glaringly obvious conflict of interests (financial in this case!). Oh well, lets wait for the next headline in the media - "Pharmacists told to complete 10 sore throat tests a day, with abx in at least 5 of the cases"!!

Angela Channing, Community pharmacist

Ahh, so no national funding, so all last week's press was a load of rubbish! 

Barry Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Perhaps the press release was just to distract attention from other pharmacy news?

Clive Hodgson, Community pharmacist

I think the Press may have been duped and used in this particular case. Who by I wonder?

Shaun Steren, Pharmaceutical Adviser

The concern of those pharmacists in possession of a brain is why such an obviously crap service is being presented as a brilliant innovation. There is absolutely no robust evidence to support the clinical benefit of this service nor its cost-effectiveness

Clive Hodgson, Community pharmacist

Compare what the front page reports in the Press were implying last week (having been fed the story) with what we know now.

I think one could be forgiven for thinking that there is a Corporate hyping this service essentially for self interest and spinning some positive publicity for themselves

Jupo Patel, Production & Technical

From the tremendous C&D articles it seems NHSE and Boots are one and the same( Boots  conduct the pilot and also decide what the payment will eventually be). And yet incredibly you still have some defending this ludicrous scheme. 

Tony Schofield, Community pharmacist

Boots have experience of operating the scheme on a reasonable scale so why re-invent the wheel? They have the data that would inform a costing exercise. My anger is nothing to do with Boots but with NHSE putting this in the Telegraph before any of our negotiators or representative bodies were aware of it. So it will become a locally commissioned service is no surprise. Postcode lotteries for services are well established now and soon we'll officially be a banana republic dependent on charity (£122bn black hole in finances when we Brexit). Challenging times!

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

I think this scheme is a perfect example of how utterly desperate the 'profession' has become, willing to grasp at any straws.

Jupo Patel, Production & Technical

And somehow nobody feels this setup could in any way be seen as corrupt or the very least being a conflict of interest. Your 'profession' is truly amazing.

THB _B, Community pharmacist

Unless it is centrally funded there is no point to this window dressing. Patients should recieve NHS services free at the point of access. Asking patients to pay the private consultation fee and then again for access to the antibiotics flies in the face of this principle. Sure it's a great idea. Fund pharmacy properly and we will be happy to do it.

Tony Schofield, Community pharmacist


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