Around 3,000 consultations were delivered through England’s new Pharmacy First service within its first three days, according to parliamentary under-secretary for health and social care Lord Markham.
Speaking in the House of Lords on Tuesday, Lord Markham announced the figure and said that ‘clearly’ the new service ‘has been welcomed’.
He added: ‘The early indications are that it has been managed well. You could say that the more business they get is a good thing in terms of their viability. Right now, we feel that it is so far, so good.’
When asked by The Pharmacist to confirm the figures, NHS England said that the numbers were ‘still being collated’, and verified data would be released ‘once we have it in the spring’.
A public awareness poll and concerns around the capacity of pharmacy teams to prepare for the service indicated that the initial roll-out could be slow.
However, the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) and Company Chemist’s Association (CCA) expressed confidence that Pharmacy First in England will be a success, while acknowledging the pressures faced by the sector.
A total of 10,265 community pharmacies in England had signed up to offer the new Pharmacy First service from 31 January, enabling them to supply treatment, including antibiotics where clinically appropriate, for sinusitis, sore throat, earache, infected insect bite, impetigo, shingles, and uncomplicated urinary tract infections in women, under a nationally commissioned patient group direction (PGD).
Janet Morrison, chief executive of Community Pharmacy England (CPE), said: ‘Pharmacy First has got off to a fantastic start, with thousands of consultations taking place in the first few days of the service.
‘This is a clear sign of support from the huge number of people who know the best route into healthcare is often to visit their pharmacy first, even before the NHS PR campaign has begun.’
She added: ‘The new service has been a huge undertaking for the sector, and our thanks go to all the community pharmacy teams who worked extremely hard to prepare for the launch.
‘We'll be making sure that their incredible efforts don't go unnoticed in our conversations with MPs and policymakers, as well as during the upcoming Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework.’
An NHSE marketing campaign to raise awareness of Pharmacy First will launch in mid-February, while CPE has created its own resources, including posters, social media content, leaflets and a local press release.
However, pharmacy owners and superintendent pharmacists (SPs) will need to ‘continually assess’ whether enough trained and competent staff are available to provide Pharmacy First safely and effectively, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has said.
Meanwhile, the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) has claimed evidence of ‘pressure to drive commercial imperatives’ being placed upon pharmacists around the delivery.