Open access article
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has made this article free to access in order to help healthcare professionals stay informed about an issue of national importance.
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Pharmacy contractors in England have declared more than 4 million transactions as part of the ‘Community pharmacy COVID-19 lateral flow device distribution service’ since its launch.
The service — publicly known as ‘Pharmacy Collect’ — enables people to pick up boxes of seven lateral flow COVID-19 tests free of charge from participating community pharmacies.
According to data obtained through a freedom of information (FOI) request from NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA), pharmacy contractors have declared 4,162,865 transactions between its launch on 29 March 2021 and 10 June 2021.
One person can collect up to four boxes of lateral flow tests at a time, which the pharmacy can then claim as one transaction.
Pharmacies are able to claim £1.50 plus VAT for each transaction, meaning contractors will be paid £6,244,297.50 (excluding VAT) for providing the service. But, as of 10 June 2021, the NHSBSA FOI response said payments for transactions had not been made.
However, the NHSBSA FOI response added that it had paid some pharmacies a total of £619,200 in registration fees and £776,700 in set-up fees on 1 June 2021 for those who had signed up to provide the service on 29–31 March 2021.
As of 10 May 2021, 10,894 pharmacies had signed up to provide the service.
Pharmacy contractors were eligible for an early registration fee of £200 if they signed up to Pharmacy Collect between 29 March 2021 and 18 April 2021, in addition to a one-off set-up fee of £250 to create a standard operating procedure for the service and to train staff.
Commenting on the data, Gareth Jones, head of corporate affairs at the National Pharmacy Association, said: “It is yet another demonstration of how pharmacies are helping the country get through the pandemic, leveraging people’s good access to the pharmacy network and their trust in pharmacy staff.
“Right from the beginning, the sector has shown a remarkably can-do attitude to COVID-19 related services, stepping up to whatever has been asked of it.”
Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp), said: “These figures — as does previous data on both COVID-19 and seasonal flu vaccinations — prove pharmacy can play a huge role in keeping local communities safer from COVID.
“It is disappointing that community pharmacies are often kept at the back of the queue to help, rather than at the forefront where we can be most effective.”
In June 2021, The Pharmaceutical Journal revealed that the government had extended the Pharmacy Collect service until July 2021, while extending its contracts with wholesalers to provide the tests to pharmacies was under consideration.
Since then, the NHSBSA has announced that the lateral flow device distribution service will be extended to 29 August 2021. However, as of 1 July 2021, tests are only available from one wholesaler — Alliance Healthcare.