PSNC 'discussing' Pharmacy Collect with DH as free LFD supply to end
The future provision of lateral flow devices from community pharmacies is under discussion after the prime minister announced the end of free Covid testing for the majority of people living in England.
Boris Johnson set out the Government’s plan for “living with Covid,” last night, revealing that free testing will be axed for most from April 1, while other measures such as the legal requirement to self-isolate after a positive test will be dropped sooner.
While some free symptomatic testing will remain in place for very vulnerable and elderly groups and for social care staff, most people who wish to get a PCR or lateral flow test will need to pay.
The Government said it will “help enable” commercial testing channels and is “working with retailers and pharmacies to help establish the private market in testing”.
This means the Pharmacy Collect service, which makes LFDs available to the public and a has formed a crucial part of the Government’s testing strategy, will either be scrapped or massively scaled back.
The PSNC said it is in talks with the Department of Health and Social Care and the UK Health Security Agency around the implications of yesterday’s announcement.
The Government said: “Over two billion lateral flow tests have been provided across the UK since 2020.
“UKHSA continues to have good stock levels and will manage these to provide flexibility in future.
“Ahead of the end of free universal testing in England, it will be necessary for UKHSA to cap the number of tests distributed each day to manage demand.
“Given that advice to test has and continues to reduce, the Government urges people only to order what they need.”
PSNC services director Alastair Buxton said: “We have been having discussions for several weeks with UKHSA, DHSC and NHSE&I about the future of the service, but these discussions could only involve scenario planning until final policy decisions were made by ministers.
“We can now continue discussions on the service and will let contractors know as soon as there is further news to share.
“Community pharmacy teams have played a major role in supporting their local communities to battle Covid-19 and that has included an amazing effort to distribute millions of lateral flow devices, helping people to control the spread of infection and return to a new normal. The sector can be rightly proud of this work and how it has supported citizens across the country.”
Commenting on end to restrictions, RPS England board chair Thorrun Govind said: “Any changes in policy, especially around public access to COVID testing, will need to be clearly communicated to healthcare staff and the wider public.
“Pharmacists have always put patient care first, but all too often we’ve seen guidance on implementation struggle to keep up with last-minute political decisions. Whatever happens in the coming days, we don’t want to see pharmacy teams left to pick up the pieces.
“It is also crucial to remain cautious whilst restrictions ease, and members of the public should continue to wear masks in healthcare settings such as pharmacies.”
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