Pharmacy bodies are open to the possibility of at-home flu tests being made available in the community this upcoming flu season.
This comes after the Mirror revealed (7 August) that the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) was exploring the possibility of expanding winter virus testing via home or community testing.
The flu test would involve a nasal and throat swab, similar to PCR and lateral flow
—tests — that are currently available in many community pharmacies — the national said.
A Government spokesman confirmed to The Pharmacist today (9 August) that they were considering the new service, however, ‘at present there are no plans to do so.’
Tests for flu are usually undertaken in laboratories when patients are hospitalised with severe complications.
Simon Dukes, chief executive of Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) said: ‘We’re open to having discussions on how this might work. Free Covid tests from pharmacies have been a huge success and we would be happy to distribute flu tests.’
Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) said, however, that she was not sure that many contractors want to invite people who might have Covid into community pharmacies as it may put staff at risk.
The chief medical officer has already warned pharmacy teams that they should expect a resurgence of flu cases alongside another winter wave of Covid.
Chief medical officer for England, Professor Chris Whitty, said that a ‘difficult winter’ lies ahead, although it may not reach the pressures felt this year. It comes as studies are underway to assess whether flu and Covid vaccinations can be co-administered later this year.
During a speech at the 2021 National Pharmacy Association (NPA) Conference last month (5 July), pharmacy minister Joe Churchill said that she wanted pharmacies to administer more flu vaccines this year than last year.
An expanded national flu vaccination programme this winter will target 35 million people across the UK.
Figures from the PSNC show community pharmacies alone vaccinated 2,617,628 during the 2020/21 programme, over one million more than the sector achieved in the entire flu season last year.
Community pharmacies also exceeded the 2019 flu vaccine record in just two months of the 2020/21 service, vaccinating more than 1.7 million patients by November.