The NPA is calling on Public Health England (PHE) to address ‘discrepancies’ in its guidance on Covid-19 antibody testing and give pharmacists permission to carry out the tests.
The body said it disputed PHE’s current view that there is ‘no evidence’ to support the suitability of rapid point of care tests for diagnosing Covid-19 infection in the community.
It added that the NHS itself is now offering antibody tests to a limited population – specifically within social care in England – with patients taking a finger prick blood sample themselves.
Pharmacies should therefore be allowed to offer tests, providing they comply with the relevant regulations from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, the NPA said.
Olivier Picard, NPA board member, said: ‘We now have a situation where the public can take a sample themselves in their own home and find out whether they have Covid-19 antibodies, but a qualified pharmacist cannot administer a test within a registered pharmacy.
‘This inconsistency makes no sense and its time Public Health England updated its guidance to catch up with the facts on the ground.’
He added: ‘Community pharmacists are well placed to give the right personal advice and support following a test, and to reinforce Covid-19 public health messages.
‘Pharmacists would remind anyone testing positive that a positive test result does not mean you are immune from the virus. What’s more, these tests can help the NHS learn more about who’s had the virus and how it has spread.’
Earlier this year, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) advised pharmacy teams not to offer the tests. The regulator said that in light of PHE guidance, it was ‘not appropriate’ to be selling or recommending rapid antibody tests in community pharmacies ‘at this point in time’.
This prompted Graham Thoms, chief executive of Pharmadoctor – which was distributing the tests to pharmacies – to write to the GPhC, expressing concerns that the use of reliable antibody tests was being ‘stifled to the detriment of healthcare professionals and the public’.
The NPA said that it has been in discussions with the regulator, DHSC, MHRA, PHE and test manufacturers about antibody testing in community pharmacy over the last four months.