The UK is set to roll out a “sore throat test and treat” service, sending consumers to pharmacies to see if they need antibiotics – but not all stakeholders are happy.
The service had been piloted with 35 patients treated at Boots pharmacies.
Consumers are to be encouraged to visit their pharmacist instead of their GP to have a swab test before seeking antibiotics.
“Sore Throat Test and Treat” is planned to be part of the National Innovation Accelerator program, a scheme designed to help with the adoption of promising new treatments and technologies.
Pharmacy groups have welcomed the initiative, but not unconditionally, while at least one prominent GP has expressed concern about the size of the pilot and the role of pharmacists.
Chemist + Druggist reports that Cormac Tobin, managing director of Lloydspharmacy owner Celesio UK, called the service “some joined-up thinking”.
However he said that projects such as this required “new money for pharmacy”.
“Pharmacists are in an ideal position to conduct this type of service and the benefits are considerable in terms of taking pressure off GPs, not to mention the effect on antibiotic resistance,” he said.
“But it will only happen if the government backs up its rhetoric with a proper — and properly funded — plan.”
CEO of the pharmacists’ union, Pharmacy Voice, Rob Darracott said that, “The Government is currently in the process of undermining the pharmacy network through the imposition of funding cuts which sees many pharmacies considering the scope of the services they offer, their opening hours and their staffing.
“This welcome recognition of a community pharmacy extended service highlights the inconsistency of the NHS’s stated desire to integrate community pharmacy services into the health and care system with the policy and funding decisions being taken by the Treasury and Department of Health.
“If the NHS and Government are serious about working with the community pharmacy sector to develop and embed this type of initiative then we need partnerships not cuts.
“This service demonstrates that community pharmacy can be innovative and evidence-focused.
“Now is the time for the NHS and Government to move beyond soundbites and pilot projects, to make a firm commitment to both the public and community pharmacy teams that this is the kind of role they see them playing in future, and invest in it properly.”
And UK GP magazine Pulsetoday quoted chair of the GPC clinical and prescribing subcommittee Dr Andrew Green, who said he “would be reluctant to roll-out nationally a service based on the results of one small study”.
“Community pharmacists are more appropriate for initial care than GPs, but for most cases they should provide self-care advice rather than validate intervention with testing and possible unnecessary treatment.
“If this scheme encourages those who would otherwise self-care to attend and be tested, there is a very real risk that the numbers of antibiotic prescriptions will increase rather than decrease, especially if pharmacies receive an item of service payment encouraging intervention.”
Former RCGP chair Professor Clare Gerada was one of several GPs querying the program on social media:
Sore throat sufferers urged to take pharmacy test> most bacterial infections don't need antibiotics-so what's point https://t.co/ri1DXhPrr4
— Clare Gerada (@ClareGerada) November 12, 2016