The Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) has seen evidence of ‘pressure to drive commercial imperatives’ being placed upon pharmacists around the delivery of Pharmacy First, it has said.

In a statement issued last week, the pharmacy union claimed ‘some’ businesses were suggesting to pharmacists delivering Pharmacy First that ‘link selling pain relief preparations to patients is key’.

‘This may indicate a lack of concern for the patients’ best interests and could be in breach of the regulatory standards for pharmacy employers,’ the association added.

While the PDA stressed it ‘wants Pharmacy First to succeed’ it also asked its members to ‘help stop inappropriate business behaviours’ by sharing any evidence of this happening.

It recalled the ‘profit motivated pressures that were applied by certain employers for the Medicines Use Review (MUR) service, which became controversial and was ultimately decommissioned’.

‘To help ensure PFS [Pharmacy First Service] is not irreparably damaged in a similar way to the MUR scheme, the PDA is calling on its members to submit any materials showing inappropriate commercially motivated behaviour, which may not be in the patient’s best interests. The evidence will be used to engage with the relevant stakeholders,’ the statement said.

The PDA added that it was ‘determined to ensure that this time, the MUR experience is not repeated.’

In a post on X (formerly known as Twitter), lawyer, pharmacist and former policy manager at the PDA Greg Lawton shared a photograph of a guidance document which he said showed supermarket pharmacy multiple Asda telling staff that ‘link selling is key’ and that ‘most customers will need pain relief’.

Speaking to The Pharmacist in response, a spokesperson for Asda denied that there was an expectation for pharmacists in its stores to offer over-the-counter (OTC) medications in any or all consultations.

They said that Asda’s primary focus was the health and wellbeing of its patients.

And while OTC medications are not covered by Pharmacy First, ‘our pharmacists are trained to offer the best possible treatment options, including advising on OTC products when appropriate’, they added.

‘This approach ensures that patients receive complete and effective care during their consultation,’ the spokesperson said.

Addressing the concerns raised in the widely shared photograph, the Asda spokesperson said: ‘Our assertion that "most customers, even if eligible, will need pain relief" is based on extensive experience of dealing with patients seeking OTC self-care and reflects an understanding of patient needs based on the experiences of our pharmacists.’

And they added that the launch of Pharmacy First in England ‘marks a significant step forward for community pharmacy’.

‘Asda is dedicated to ensuring that every patient accessing our services receives the best possible care, which includes informed opportunities for over-the-counter selfcare where appropriate,’ they said.

The PDA previously drew attention to one multiple that had advised its pharmacists to ‘temporarily suspend’ the Pharmacy First service if they do not feel competent to deliver it.

But it warned that other approaches were potentially putting some pharmacists ‘under pressure’ to deliver the service prematurely.