Contractors must participate in a mandatory weight management campaign this January, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee has announced.

The campaign will run from 3 January until 29 January, for which contractors can order posters, wallet cards ('info' cards with a QR code) and a dispenser for these cards, or choose digital resources as part of the campaign.

As part of the healthy living support domain of the 2022/23 Pharmacy Quality Scheme, pharmacy teams are also required to proactively discuss weight management with at least 25 patients and refer at least 4 who meet the criteria for referral to either a Local Authority funded tier 2 weight management service or the NHS Digital Weight Management Programme.

Pharmacy teams could use the weight management campaign materials as conversation starters to assist them with meeting these requirements, PSNC advised.

The campaign is the only mandatory national health campaign that pharmacy contractors will have to participate in for 2022/23, out of a potential six.

Some pharmacists have expressed frustration at being asked to take on the campaign at a time when many are struggling with workload pressures, including around an increased demand in antibiotics.

Contractor Sri Kanaparthy said that community pharmacies are ‘already in a crisis’ due to rising medicines costs, inflationary costs and staff costs, asking how they could be expected to also undertake the weight management campaign.

Meanwhile, another pharmacist said on Twitter that the campaign would not be his priority, as they will be busy contacting wholesalers to source medicines.

Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) said that pharmacies ‘want to be a solution to the NHS and welcome everything that is financed properly with open arms’, but said that ‘right now, we are in a situation where people are waking up in the morning thinking how are they going to get through the day.’

PSNC’s director of NHS Services, Alastair Buxton, said that PSNC was ‘cognisant of the capacity constraints applying to pharmacy contractors and their team’ and had therefore agreed to one mandatory campaign rather than the usual six.

‘The campaign topic and timing fits with a focus within much of the population on New Year’s resolutions during January and it supports work that many teams would already be planning to meet the Pharmacy Quality Scheme requirements,’ he added.

A guidance leaflet developed by the Office for Health Improvement and Disparities instructs contractors to always ask people’s permission before talking about weight, and to hold the conversation in private. They should then determine the patient’s BMI and then give advice or assistance as appropriate.

Contractors can also download posters and information cards from the Department of Health and Social Care website to advertise the campaign and prompt conversations with patients.