Pharmacy First is unlikely to be a significant source of complications due to increased antibiotic use but evaluation of its impact will be key, according to a National Institute of Health Research (NIHR) senior investigator.

Paul Little – who is also professor of primary care research at the University of Southampton – told an NIHR webinar that Pharmacy First might see an increase in antibiotic use but ‘based on previous experience [I suspect] it’s not going to have a horrible effect in terms of people getting complications’.

Professor Little added: ‘It is being evaluated and it will be very important to see what the impact is from consultations.

‘I suspect that antibiotic use may not go down just because, obviously, it'll be very easy for people to go and see their pharmacist, and having easy access to antibiotics may or may not be a good thing. So we'll just have to see.’

In November last year, NHS England (NHSE) announced that pharmacists could be suspended from delivering a Pharmacy First service if concerns over antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and patient safety emerge.

This followed a letter in which the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), NHSE and Community Pharmacy England (CPE) said that Pharmacy First would be closely monitored post-launch ‘particularly in relation to antimicrobial supply to guard against the risk of increasing antimicrobial resistance’.

The NIHR webinar, which covered the issue of reducing antibiotic use in primary care, highlighted the growing risk of AMR, with the World Health Organization listing it within the top 10 threats to global health.

While asserting the need for monitoring, Professor Little expressed the view that Pharmacy First is ‘a good idea’.

He said: ‘I think there’s good evidence… that pharmacists with suitable training and clear guidance can manage a range of infections, on the uncomplicated end of the infection.’