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Editor's view: Pharmacy First up and running – just about

Whisper it quietly, but the early indications are that England’s Pharmacy First common conditions service has got off to a promising start, writes Pharmacy Magazine editor Richard Thomas.

Despite the lack of preparation time and ongoing business pressures, pharmacy teams have hit the ground running, already creating capacity for GPs – the whole point of the service, don’t forget. Patients are also appreciating faster access to a healthcare professional rather than waiting weeks for an appointment. It has been a magnificent effort.

No doubt there will be plenty of teething problems to sort out in the coming weeks, the IT in particular, but as the good Lord (Markham) says – so far, so good.

Incidentally, plaudits should go to those who took to the airwaves to talk about the new service, and I don’t just mean senior figures from the profession on the familiar TV sofas. Frontline community pharmacists interviewed on their local radio stations were excellent too. The sector may have suffered in the past from a lack of media interest. No longer. We have some superb advocates putting the case forward for pharmacy. 

It’s not all been wine and roses. Perhaps predictably, there has been plenty of poorly informed sniping from GPs on the sidelines and, as the national advertising campaign kicks off this month, some of the early messaging has missed the mark. Public expectations must be managed carefully so pharmacists are not put under unnecessary pressure. In the current circumstances, implementation of the service will be challenging enough as it is.

Neither does the funding for Pharmacy First remove the need for fair funding across the sector. There’s barely enough money in the pot to safely deliver existing services, let alone new ones.

There are also some practical issues to think about. Walk-in patients, for instance, could play havoc with pharmacy workflows. Might pharmacies have to move to appointments in order to cope? If so, would that negate the network’s accessibility trump card?

Describing her experiences at the sharp end and sharing some helpful tips on providing the service, Reena Barai’s excellent blog is well worth a read. Also look out for the first of our Pharmacy First toolkits enclosed inside the February issue of Pharmacy Magazine, out soon. Meanwhile, our CPD programme continues to provide opportunities to refresh your clinical knowledge of the seven conditions.

Keep up the good work!

By Richard Thomas

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