Pharmacy bodies gave a cautious welcome to NHS England's announcement that a walk-in community pharmacy-based ‘Sore Throat Test and Treat’ service had been selected for inclusion in the National Innovation Accelerator (NIA) programme.
Pharmacy Voice said in a statement: "Today’s announcement is a welcome recognition of the potential community pharmacies have to deliver high impact services that are accessible to patients, relieve pressure on GP surgeries, help the NHS save money and contribute to a major public health priority." But it warned that, for community pharmacies to be in a position to fulfil this type of role on a larger scale, a wide, sustainable network of community pharmacies was necessary. And this was "a far cry" from the uncertainty created by the recent funding cuts.
Chief executive Rob Darracott said: “The government is currently in the process of undermining the pharmacy network through the imposition of funding cuts which sees many pharmacies considering the scope of the services they offer, their opening hours and their staffing. This welcome recognition of a community pharmacy extended service highlights the inconsistency of the NHS’s stated desire to integrate community pharmacy services into the health and care system with the policy and funding decisions being taken by the Treasury and Department of Health."
Alastair Buxton, PSNC Director of NHS Services, said: “Whilst we welcome the news that NHS England has recognised community pharmacy as a key member of the primary care team that can help reduce pressure on GP practices, this announcement seems to run contrary to the DH funding cut which is due to be implemented next month and which will adversely affect the ability of pharmacies to provide patient care.
It should also be noted that no central funding is being made available to commission this service and its adoption will be subject to local decisions made by CCGs.”
The Boots Sore Throat Test and Treat pilot service was one of eight health innovations selected to join the NIA programme, which is run by NHS England and the Academic Health Science Networks and aims to help proven innovations to be adopted across the NHS.
The service was selected following a Boots pilot service in which patients with sore throats were tested using throat swabs to determine their need for antibiotics. Of 367 patients who received the service, two-thirds were prevented from making a GP appointment as they didn’t require antibiotics. It was estimated that 800,000 GP consultations could be saved if this service was available nationally.