A new advanced service to supply eligible patients with free Covid-19 Lateral Flow Device (LFD) test kits in community pharmacies in England has been announced.

NHS England (NHSE) pharmacy director Ali Sparke unveiled plans for the new service at this year’s Pharmacy Show on Monday, and suggested the move recognised the range of services community pharmacies could provide.

The service, which will launch next month, will allow eligible patients with risk factors for severe Covid-19, and who would benefit from antivirals, to obtain LFD tests from participating community pharmacies.

Speaking at the conference in Birmingham, NHSE director for pharmacy, optometry, dentistry and the NHS Standard Contract, Mr Sparke, said around three million people in England would be eligible and that the service would be backed by new money.

‘So, hopefully a piece of relatively good news and another thing that recognises the amount of feathers to the cap this sector has demonstrated,’ he told delegates.

The service specification was published by NHS England on 19 October, after a draft version was released on the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) website.

In addition, CPE said the service would be funded outside of the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework (CPCF) global sum and that ‘a service fee of £4 + VAT will be paid for each completed transaction of the supply of one box of five Covid-19 LFD test kits’.

The cost of supplied will be paid according to arrangements set out in the November 2023 Drug Tariff, CPE added.

Commenting on the announcement, Alastair Buxton, director of NHS Services at CPE, said: ‘This is not going to be a high-volume service, but community pharmacy teams are well placed to provide LFD test kits to eligible patients with them having made over 25.5 million supplies of Covid-19 LFD test kits in 2021/22.’

He said the service was similar to the previous LFD Pharmacy Collect service and that CPE expected ‘it will be straightforward for pharmacy teams to get up and running with the service if the pharmacy owner chooses to provide it’.

Mr Buxton added: ‘At a time when we are seeing Covid-19 cases start to increase, this service along with the Covid-19 vaccination service, demonstrates yet again what a key part of the NHS community pharmacies are.’

Pharmacy owners will be able to sign up to provide the service on the NHSBSA’s MYS portal from 6 November 2023 – when LFD tests stop being available for these eligible patients via the government or NHS.

This article was updated on 20 October with a link to the published service specification.