High street pharmacy chain LloydsPharmacy is to open a series of healthcare centres around England, providing services from oncology injections and infusion clinics to testing and screening.
So far, three contracts have been signed, with the first centre due to begin work before Christmas 2017.
All three centres agreed so far — one in Manchester, one in the North East, and one in the Midlands — will operate out of existing Lloyds pharmacies, but among ongoing negotiations to open more centres, one of them is set to be a dedicated new healthcare centre in the Midlands.
The services at the new healthcare centres will be commissioned by the NHS and paid for by a combination of trusts, clinical commissioning groups, and pharmaceutical companies, depending on the service provided.
Pharmaceutical firms are likely to be involved when patients are on a complex drugs regime and adherence may be an issue.
Lloyds nurses would provide many of the services, but pharmacists on site would be trained to provide expert advice such as specialist medicine use reviews for oncology patients.
Testing, such as spirometry for asthma testing, could also be offered at some sites.
Celesio UK claims it is moving from a “healthcare supply-chain partner, taking medicines up to dispensing point” to a “full, end-to-end healthcare provider”.
And the firm’s head of speciality pharmacy at Celesio UK, Jill Pritchard, said the work that could be done in the healthcare centres extended to “anything that can be done safely in community pharmacy”.
She said that in discussions with NHS commissioners so far, they were keenest on injection and infusion clinics, covering mainly rheumatology, oncology and respiratory treatment.
She said healthcentre work would only be carried out at Lloyds pharmacies that have at least two consulting rooms, so that other primary care work that requires a consulting room could continue.
At the moment, 70 Lloyds pharmacies have two consulting rooms or more, but Pritchard said the company hoped to provide healthcare services from more sites than that.
“I really believe we are elevating the role of pharmacy and ensuring we are using our five years of clinical training,” she said.
“We hope to excite more people into pharmacy”.
RPS director for England, Robbie Turner, described the move as a “great utilisation” of clinical skills that pharmacists working in the community already have.
“We will watch this development with interest, and hope that this confidence in the profession being able to expand its role into areas that have previously been delivered in other settings will be implemented elsewhere in the country,” he said.
Celesio UK speciality director, Ruth Poole, said funding cuts for community pharmacy had played a part in the firm’s decision to move away from traditional models to expand the services that pharmacists and pharmacies can provide.
Asked if this expansion into healthcare centres meant that no more Lloyds pharmacies would follow the 190 that are being sold or closed down, Poole said: “We can’t commit to there being no more closures, but what we can say is that we want to be bringing more value-added elements to our pharmacies.
Patients who use the new healthcare service will have to be referred by their consultant, and it will be their choice whether to receive the service via Lloyds, or remain in an NHS setting. They will still remain under the care of their NHS consultant.
Each healthcare centre will have an agreed clinical governance framework with the relevant trust, and complaints can be made via the NHS trust’s complaints procedure as well as through Lloyds’s own complaints system.