Everyone is talking about the new national Pharmacy First Service that is being launched UK-wide this month (January 2024), but what exactly is it, what is included and what does it mean for you?
What is the Pharmacy First Service?
The Pharmacy First Service is a new NHS initiative that allows patients to get free and readily available advice on minor ailments from their local community pharmacists without waiting for an appointment to see their GP.
Commencing on the 31st of January 2024 the Pharmacy First scheme involves an enhanced service where pharmacists will be providing advice and NHS-funded treatment for 7 common minor ailments.
Pharmacies are uniquely placed in the healthcare system to provide a frontline service to the public enabling patients to get free independent healthcare advice without the need for an appointment. Research shows that 40% of a GPs working day is spent dealing with minor ailments. To help ease this burden, the Pharmacy First initiative has identified seven common conditions that patients will be directed to a pharmacy first, to help release GP time for patients with more complex medical needs.
What services are included in the Pharmacy First Service?
The Pharmacy First scheme provides frontline advice and treatment on seven common health conditions:
- sore throat
- acute otitis media
- infected insect bite
- uncomplicated urinary tract infections in women.
This new service enables pharmacies to manage these above-common infections by informing patients of self-care and safety netting advice along with supplying patients with certain over-the-counter and prescription-only medicines. The full guidelines and guidance on this can be found on the NHS website (click here).
What do I need to do for the Pharmacy First Service?
How can Pharmacists prepare for the Pharmacy First Service?
In preparation for the launch of the Pharmacy First Service at the end of January 2024, it is recommended that Pharmacists familiarise themselves with the service specification, clinical pathways and the current draft Patient Group Directions and protocol (click here).
It is also recommended to keep an eye on the FAQ page on the Community Pharmacy England website as new information and guidelines are made available.
CPE has also developed a checklist for pharmacists (including locum pharmacists) to ensure that they can prepare thoroughly for the Pharmacy First service (click here).
Pharmacists can also prepare by ensuring they are thoroughly trained on the Pharmacy First Service. It is advised that you complete the Pharmacy First self-assessment framework to identify any gaps in knowledge that need to be addressed before you can provide the service (click here). Over the coming months there will be different webinars on the service and as well as training resources currently available on the CPPE Pharmacy First page.
How can Pharmacies prepare for the Pharmacy First Service?
Pharmacies can receive additional funding for signing up for and delivering Pharmacy First Services. Pharmacies wishing to partake must opt-in before the 31st January 2024, the opt-in process must be complete before you can claim the initial fixed payment.
Pharmacy owners must ensure they are familiar with the service specification, clinical pathways and the current draft Patient Group Directions and protocol (click here). CPE has developed a checklist for pharmacies to ensure that they can prepare to deliver the Pharmacy First Service (click here).
As a Pharmacy Owner, you must ensure that you have all the equipment, IT systems & SOPs necessary to perform the services as well as ensure that all of your pharmacy staff are trained on the service, including ensuring the pharmacists providing the services are competent in doing so. Guidance on this can be found on the CPE website.