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Pharmacy First service will launch in January


Pharmacy First service will launch in January

By Richard Thomas

The new Pharmacy First service in England will launch on January 31, 2024, in what has been called the sector’s “most important contractual development in over 10 years”.

The Advanced service will involve providing advice and, where clinically appropriate, prescription-only treatments under patient group directions for seven common conditions subject to the required IT systems being in place. These must be able to send data to the NHSBSA’s MYS portal and to GP records, and allow more parts of the GP record to be seen.

The seven conditions are: sinusitis; sore throat; acute otitis media; infected insect bite; impetigo; shingles; and uncomplicated urinary tract infections in women. The service specifications and PGDs will be published “soon”, said Community Pharmacy England.

The new service allows for self-referral from patients along with referrals from existing Community Pharmacist Consultation Service routes such as GPs and NHS 111. The CPCS will be incorporated into the Pharmacy First service.

Distance selling pharmacies will be able to provide six clinical pathways via video consultations with the exception of acute otitis media, since investigation will require use of an otoscope.

Community Pharmacy England said it will work with DHSC and NHSE on a public-facing communications campaign, “balancing driving uptake with preventing ... inappropriate demand”.

An expanded Pharmacy Contraception Service, including initiation of oral contraception, will also launch on December 1, 2023, as well as a rebooted Hypertension Case-Finding Service with additional funding to support both schemes.

Pharmacy First payments

An initial fixed payment of £2,000 will be available for contractors to claim ahead of the Pharmacy First launch date, which can be reclaimed by DHSC if a pharmacy doesn’t provide five consultations by end of March 2024.

There will then be fixed monthly payments of £1,000 subject to meeting minimum activity thresholds plus a £15 payment per consultation.

A new tripartite implementation group consisting of CPE, NHSE and DHSC will scrutinise uptake and activity volumes of the Pharmacy First service and set activity caps for the second half of 2024/25.

Community Pharmacy England said it successfully negotiated a delayed deadline for linking eligibility for the £1,000 Pharmacy First monthly payments to the provision of the hypertension and contraception services given the “capacity issues” in the sector.

The negotiator said it had also agreed with the Government to write off funding over-delivery of £112 million for years 3, 4 and 5 of the current contractual framework.


Janet Morrison, CPE chief executive, hailed the announcement as “most important contractual development in 10 years”, adding that the body’s committee had unanimously agreed to accept the deal.

“Funding and operational pressures remain and must be resolved,” she said. “Implementation will be a huge challenge but the success of Pharmacy First is critical to pave the way for further clinical services development and investment.”

“Our focus will now turn to getting the money flowing to pharmacies and to preparing our long-term strategy to improve the sector’s future. Pharmacy First will help with this strategy, laying the foundations for future clinical services and establishing the sector as an increasingly vital part of primary care,” she added.

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