The launch date for Pharmacy First of 31 January remains on track although contingency plans are being put in place in case it is pushed back, a Community Pharmacy England (CPE) webinar has revealed.

Uncertainty has surrounded the launch date since senior NHS England officials urged caution over the readiness of IT systems.

Despite this, Pallavi Dawda, head of delivery – clinical strategy, community pharmacy, at NHS England, told the recent CPE webinar that ‘at the moment we’ve got nothing to suggest that it isn’t on track’.

However, she added: ‘In the background, we are starting to work up some contingency plans.’

According to Ms Dawda, IT systems are not the only consideration in the service launching on time. ‘We also need sufficient numbers of pharmacists signed up to deliver the service as well,’ she said.

Ms Dawda also emphasised that government backing made it more likely that Pharmacy First will launch on the scheduled date.

She said: ‘It’s worth mentioning at this point that we’ve got a lot of support from No 10 wanting us to do this, and we’ve got a lot of backing.

‘Ministers really do want this service out supporting patients… so I’m not sure we’re going to be in a space where we want to move [the date] back.’

The webinar – called Pharmacy First: Getting to know the service – was one in a series organised by CPE to help pharmacists prepare for the new scheme.