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200 pharmacies turn to sore throat service to offset cuts

Connect2Pharma director: Evidence from Boots sore throat pilot is strong

Around 200 pharmacies across the UK are now providing a ‘test and treat’ sore throat service to help offset the funding cuts, C+D has learned.

NHS England announced last November it is backing an on-the-spot sore throat swab service in pharmacies – first piloted by Boots in 2014 – to relieve pressure on the NHS, free-up GP appointments and tackle antibiotic resistance. 

While NHS England could not confirm at the time how the scheme would be developed, consultancy firm Connect2Pharma told C+D last week (February 3) that it has been providing training for pharmacies to offer their own version of the scheme.

The training session, which uses the same product and UK distributor as the Boots pilot, attracted “over 200 pharmacists” in December, Connect2Pharma marketing and communications manager Tim Robinson told C+D.

“We now have around 200 pharmacies – mainly independents or within small chains – providing [sore throat] tests,” he said. These are "mainly London-based, but there are others throughout the UK".

The on-the-spot throat swab tests are designed to detect Streptococcus group A. While Connect2Pharma provides the training and marketing support, pharmacies buy the test directly from the distributor, which cost around “about £1.80” each when bought with its discount code.

The firm recommends pharmacies provide the test service for £9.50, Mr Robinson added. The aim is to “create an alternative or new revenue stream” for pharmacy “in response to the cuts”, he said.

“We know pharmacies that provided the service six times in their first week,” he added. “But [patient uptake] is dependent on the pharmacy team’s attitude, the position of their business and customer awareness.”

Connect2Pharma director and pharmacist Mark Robinson said the income from the service is "still relatively small compared to the [funding] cuts that pharmacies in England are facing".

"The whole idea is to get them doing one of these [services], and then introduce a second, then a third. Slowly creating a portfolio of clinical services."

"We have many more in the pipeline, and plan to launch a Strep B test next month," he added.

Backlash to Boots scheme “unreasonable”

Mark Robinson argued that some of the criticism leveled at the Boots sore throat scheme was “unreasonable”, and the evidence from the 2014 pilot is "strong".

“There was a lack of understanding. People were looking at the feasibility study as if it was a clinical trial."

“The tests are very effective. Patients who test positively to Strep A can either get a fast track referral to the GP, or pharmacists who are independent prescribers or have a patient group directive for the supply of antibiotics can supply them,” he said.

While the test is designed to be used on patients of “any age”, Mark Robinson said “most pharmacists are using [the test] for older children and adults".

“We have a way to go to get community pharmacists fully trained up to do tests for younger children,” he said.

Connect2Pharma is providing Public Health England and NHS England with data on its service, so they can make a decision about whether a version should be rolled out nationwide, he added.

Are you providing a sore throat test service?

Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

There have been quite a few reports on these pages lately of new 'inovative services' etc. that we should all be offering, but on no occasion has any financial detail been given - we need the nuts and bolts, not just the pretty picture.

Meera Sharma, Community pharmacist

So.... where's the funding for it? If this service is so valuable, are pharmacies being helped with this service or is it being funded solely by the owner-pharmacist?

Barry Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

Since the DH / this Government / next Government are determined to revitalise (delete that PRIVATISE) the NHS then this is where we are headed. Can see the benefits to patients in London who will cough up.

Places like Blackburn, Blackpool, Burnley I'm not so sure. Charging for deliveries would bring in more income even if it were 10p a pop.

Clive Hodgson, Community pharmacist

It would come as a surprise if any of these Pharmacies actually made a nett profit out of this service provision if the costs are correctly factored in (assuming no external funding).

Mr CAUSTIC, Community pharmacist

would be nice to know from pharmacists providing the service how many tests they have done. it is all very well for the company to say 200 are providing the service ie they have sold 200 pharmacies a starter kit of tests but one needs to know the total number of tests sold per pharmacy before one can evaluate whether one should be thinking about providing the service. there is also the risk whilst carrying out the test that they might cough their bugs over you whilst looking in their mouth and swabing the correct one going to use up all the tests before their expiry date ?

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