The Government is finalising plans to bring a second delivery partner into the Pharmacy Collect scheme to boost the number of lateral flow devices being sent to pharmacies each week by 3.5 million, the PSNC has said.
The negotiator said last night that the UK Health Security Agency, which is responsible for ensuring public access to LFDs, is planning to “switch on a Parcel Force delivery contingency” to help meet “unprecedented public demand” for the test kits.
This will reportedly help the agency deliver a further 3.5 million test kits, or 500,0000 packs of seven tests, on top of the more than 10 million tests currently being delivered to pharmacies each week by wholesaler Alliance Healthcare.
The UKHSA has said Alliance – which has been the sole delivery partner for the Pharmacy Collect service since it launched in spring 2021 – is delivering 86 per cent of all orders within 24 hours of receiving orders from pharmacies, with almost half made on the same day.
The announcement of the contingency plan comes as demand for lateral flow tests continues to soar, with records for positive Covid tests in the UK being broken on a daily basis.
Pharmacy Network News understands that further details will shortly be released concerning plans to prioritise LFDs for 100,000 key workers, and that these plans will neither involve key workers collecting tests from pharmacies nor affect the number of tests being sent to pharmacies.
PSNC public affairs director Zoe Long said: “Pharmacies are continuing to face near-constant demand for lateral flow tests which they are still often unable to meet. This is putting significant pressure on pharmacy teams, and we are also really concerned about continuing reports of verbal abuse, especially where members of the public are not aware that having a code does not guarantee that supply is available.
“The UKHSA are doing all that they can to assure supplies, but so far, and with further policy changes emphasising the importance of lateral flow tests announced today, this will not have felt like enough to many pharmacy teams.
“We do hope that these further steps to increase supply will start to have a positive impact soon, but in the meantime, we will continue to raise concerns with the UKHSA on an ongoing basis.
“PSNC and the other national pharmacy organisations have also been doing a huge amount of work with the national media to try to reset patient expectations on this topic and to emphasise the critical work that pharmacies are doing.”
During a Commons debate yesterday Labour MPs attacked prime minister Boris Johnson for failing to prevent the supply issues in pharmacies around the UK. Sheffield South East MP Clive Betts said he had visited a number of pharmacies in constituency, each of which had notices in the window saying no lateral flow tests were available.
Meanwhile, Lewisham West and Penge MP Ellie Reeves asked why more British LFD manufacturers have not yet had their products approved by the MHRA.
Mr Johnson said the Government had increased deliveries of LFDs considerably and accused Labout MPs of “simply refusing to give credit where it is due,” adding that the number of approved British LFD manufacturers was rising.