The work of community pharmacies has become a ‘central component’ to the delivery of sexual health services in Birmingham, Public Health England (PHE) has said.
A case study published on the Government department’s website highlighted how a network of 174 community pharmacies, contracted by the city’s Umbrella sexual health service, is helping to provide easy access to sexual health services.
The Umbrella service was set up in 2014, at a time when the sexual health system in Birmingham was failing to ‘meet the needs of priority groups’, PHE said.
Pharmacists were recruited to provide community-based services to increase access to sexual health services and at the same time reduce pressure on clinics.
They could bid to provide either a tier one service, which is more basic and includes emergency contraception, condoms, a sexually transmitted infection kit ‘click and collect’ service and chlamydia screening. Alternatively, pharmacists could provide a tier two service, which is more comprehensive.
Out of the 174 pharmacies who took part in the pilot, 61 are now offering tier two services, but one of the next steps of the initiative is to upgrade all tier one pharmacies to tier two, PHE said.
‘Consistency and quality’
The case study said the success of pharmacies’ involvement had been partly due to investing in and promoting the Umbrella brand, as well as a dedicated training programme, which has ensured ‘consistency and quality’ across the service.
‘The growth in the pharmacy service provision is a clear illustration of how popular it is with service users, especially young people, who like the anonymity and convenience of attending a pharmacy, rather than a clinic,’ it added.
In the future, the Umbrella service is planning to reserve appointments at sexual health clinics for people with more complex needs, while anyone who can be seen in a community setting will be directed to a local pharmacy or a GP provider.