Pharmacists are seeing a ‘huge’ decline in the number of patients collecting Covid lateral flow tests (LFTs) from their stores, following recent changes to the service which make it harder for patients to get tests quickly.  

In October, NHS England and Improvement (NHSE&I) announced patients needed to register for a collect code through the Government website or 119 before making a collection from the pharmacy. 

Previously, patients could collect LFTs from their pharmacy without having to present a code.  

A pharmacist from Sai Pharmacy in East Ham, London said he had seen a ‘huge’ decline in people coming into his pharmacy to pick up the tests since the service amendments. 

‘We have seen a decline of over 60% and those who do come to collect tests are put off by the registration process to get a code and leave - people find it too cumbersome now,' he told The Pharmacist.  

Similarly, Khuram Shiekh, owner of Heaton pharmacy in Bradford said he had seen the same downward trend at his pharmacy.  

‘The number of tests I have given out recently is less now because of patients having to provide a QR code rather than just walking in to collect them,’ he said.  

Nat Mitchell, pharmacist and director of JWW Allisons Chemist in Cockermouth, said that he saw a huge increase in patients collecting the tests just before the service amendments were put in place.  

‘Many patients were aware of the imminent changes and collected tests in advance,’ he explained.  

Alastair Buxton, director of NHS services at PSNC said: ‘It was understandable that some people may be put off obtaining Covid-19 Lateral Flow Devices due to the collect code requirements.’  

The new changes were put in place in place to meet the Government’s need for greater traceability of the test kits. 

However, before the changes were implemented, PSNC warned the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and NHS Test and Trace that the changes ran the risk of discouraging people from getting tests, Mr Buxton said.  

‘Test kits can still be supplied to people not willing to obtain a test code via the anonymous route and from a public health perspective. It is important that pharmacy teams offer that opportunity to people to support the ongoing fight against Covid-19,’ he added. 

DHSC has been approached for comment.  

In April, The Pharmacist reported that over 90% of all community pharmacies in England were offering free rapid Covid tests.  

The NHS community pharmacy Covid-19 lateral flow device distribution service, or ‘Pharmacy Collect’, was added to the NHS Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework in March 2021 as an advanced service.  

This service, which pharmacy contractors can choose to provide was launched to improve access to Covid-19 testing.  

Contractors who do provide the service were offered a one-off set-up fee of £250 + VAT.  

A service fee of £1.70 and £1.20 is given per transaction of the LFT kit using a collect code and anonymous collection route respectively.