Substance misuse and needle exchange patients in Newcastle will be given up to £25’s worth of Greggs vouchers if they present for a blood spot test for hepatitis C in a community pharmacy.
Currently running in North Tyneside, the ‘Hep C testing service’ was developed by Gateshead and South Tyneside Local Pharmaceutical Committee (LPC) and Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. The LPC is looking for pharmacies in Gateshead and South Tyneside to start offering the service.
Under the service, a blood spot sample is sent by post to the hospital trust laboratory for testing; the result is then sent back to the pharmacist, who will inform the patient and signpost them for treatment if necessary. Pharmacies will receive £25 per intervention.
To encourage patients to make use of the service, the LPC said on its website that participants “will receive up to £25 of Greggs vouchers,” adding that the target patient group “have been surveyed and this is their choice of voucher”.
Sami Hanna, communications officer for the LPC, said both the £25 remuneration per patient and the vouchers for the bakery chain are funded by the hospital trust, which is looking for pharmacies to expand the service “as soon as possible”.
Hanna told The Pharmaceutical Journal: “It’s another clinical service in our arsenal, really, so the more clinical services that we’ve got ready and available to us as pharmacists in our practices, the better.”
He said that pharmacists see substance misuse patients regularly “and sometimes we’re the only healthcare professionals they see on a regular basis, so we’re very well positioned to be able to help with this”.
Hanna added that while the scheme “fits with the clinical agenda” nationally, the scheme itself has no national backing.
The government announced in the ‘Community pharmacy contractual framework for 2019/2020 to 2023/2024’ that it would “fund the introduction of hepatitis C testing in community pharmacies for people using needle and syringe programmes” with £2m in 2019/2020 and another £2m in 2020/2021.
NHS England said in January 2019 that its plan to eliminate hepatitis C by 2025 — five years before the goal set by the World Health Organization — “is on track”.