Almost 500,000 consultations were carried out under the NHS Pharmacy First Scotland service between January 2021 and March 2021, according to data published by Public Health Scotland (PHS).
Analysis of the data by The Pharmaceutical Journal shows that, of claims submitted by pharmacies for payment for the consultations, 59,462 were for a consultation only, 22,050 were for a consultation that resulted in a referral to the patient’s GP and more than 400,000 were for a consultation that resulted in a medicine being dispensed.
NHS Pharmacy First was launched across Scotland on 29 July 2020, after being postponed from its original start date of 22 April 2020 to allow pharmacy teams to focus on managing the COVID-19 pandemic. The service, which allows community pharmacies to offer treatment to patients presenting with certain minor conditions, replaced Scotland’s existing minor ailment service, which had been delivered by community pharmacies since 2006 and enabled children, people aged 60 years or over, those with a medical exemption certificate or people on certain benefits to obtain medicines for a minor illness for free.
When the Pharmacy First service was launched in Scotland, it included two patient group directions (PGDs) for the treatment of uncomplicated urinary tract infections (UTIs) and impetigo; however, in May 2021 it was announced that PGDs for shingles and skin infections would also be added to the programme from 15 June 2021.
The community pharmacy contractor activity for 2021 data, published by PHS on 8 June 2021, show that 489,427 claims were submitted for payment for a Pharmacy First patient consultation between January 2021 and March 2021.
Pharmacies offering the service are given a base payment of £1,250 per month and are then paid per activity, with equal weight given to advice, referrals and medicines supplied after a Pharmacy First consultation.
The data also show that the total payment for claims providing the Pharmacy First service, including the UTI and impetigo subservices, was more than £6m.
More than 19,000 claims for payment were submitted for consultations carried out under the UTI subservice; the majority of which resulted in the dispensing of an item, such as trimethoprim. Overall, the gross ingredient cost for items dispensed through the Pharmacy First UTI subservice totalled £31,696.
Pharmacies submitted a total of 2,000 claims for consultations carried out under the impetigo subservice, 1,968 of which led to the dispensing of an item, such as fusidic acid 2% cream, resulting in a gross ingredient cost for items dispensed of £6,152.50.
“The Pharmacy First Service was launched during the pandemic to deliver additional care and support for minor illnesses and common clinical conditions to the people of Scotland,” said a spokesperson for Community Pharmacy Scotland.
“The resulting figures, at this early stage, are very encouraging and show the continued level of excellent patient care community pharmacy has delivered throughout the pandemic with all the related restrictions this created.
“It is not possible to draw full conclusions on the service based on results from this unprecedented year; however, with the anniversary of the service launch fast approaching in July , coupled with the move towards an ease in COVID-19 restrictions and an increase in public awareness of the service, we look forward to seeing the NHS Pharmacy First Services grow and evolve over the coming years.”
These data from PHS were based on eMessage information submitted after a patient consultation and not all claims were necessarily approved and paid.
What is NHS Pharmacy First?
NHS Pharmacy First was launched across Scotland on 29 July 2020, after being postponed from its original start date of 22 April 2020 to allow pharmacy teams to focus on managing the COVID-19 pandemic.
The service replaces Scotland’s minor ailment service, in what Community Pharmacy Scotland described as “the biggest change to the community pharmacy contractual framework in recent years”.
In July 2020, the Scottish government announced that, from 1 October 2020, pharmacies offering the NHS Pharmacy First scheme would receive a base payment of £1,250 per month and then be paid per activity, with equal weight given to advice, referrals and medicines supplied after a Pharmacy First consultation.
READ MORE: ‘Pharmacy First is the art of pharmacy’.