Pharmacy contractors in England claimed nearly 17 million transactions in the first eight months of the ‘Community pharmacy COVID-19 lateral flow device distribution service’, official data show.
The service — publicly known as ‘Pharmacy Collect’ — enables members of the public to collect boxes of seven lateral flow COVID-19 tests free of charge from participating community pharmacies.
One person can collect up to two boxes of lateral flow tests per visit, which the pharmacy can then claim as one transaction.
Data published monthly by NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) show that pharmacy contractors claimed a total of 16,955,732 transactions between April and November 2021 (see Table).
As of November 2021, 8,979 pharmacy contractors were supplying lateral flow tests across England.
When the service launched on 29 March 2021, pharmacies could claim £1.50 plus VAT for each transaction.
However, this changed on 4 October 2021 with the introduction of ‘collect codes’, which encouraged patients to register for a 16-digit collect code through the government website, in an effort to improve traceability of the tests supplied.
Following this, contractors could claim £1.70 plus VAT per transaction where a collect code had been provided. Where a code was not provided, contractors could claim £1.20 plus VAT per transaction.
As a result, calculations by The Pharmaceutical Journal suggest contractors may have claimed at least £24.2m, and up to £26.1m (excluding VAT), for providing the service during its first eight months.
Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp), said: “[The data] highlights the success for the sector as community pharmacy proves again and again that the public in the communities that we serve trust us and our easily accessible, highly trained and motivated staff; that they find us highly convenient to visit for any of their healthcare needs.”
The data does not cover December 2021, when pharmacies reported LFT kit supply issues amid a surge in demand from patients over the festive period.
However, Hannbeck added: “Over the Christmas period, AIMp members had the opportunity to pick up large quantities of LFTs and distribute them without delay in local communities.”
In January 2022, wholesaler Alliance Healthcare — the sole distributor of LFT kits to community pharmacies — announced plans to increase distribution by 2.5 million kits per week to manage demand.
|Number of transactions claimed
Source: NHS Business Services Authority