On the eve of the start of the Pharmacy First service, we know pharmacy teams across the country are continuing to work hard to be ready to provide the service.

We have been responding to lots of your questions on the service, with the most frequently asked being added to our Pharmacy First FAQ webpage.

The page has been updated daily over the last couple of weeks, so have a look at it as part of your preparations for the service.

A selection of new questions added to the page can be found below. See the rest of our FAQs on the Pharmacy First FAQ page.

Q. I have not yet received the otoscope I ordered. Can I start providing the service before the otoscope arrives?
Yes. In NHS England’s letter issued to pharmacy owners on 25th January 2024, they advised that pharmacies may start to provide the service without being able to provide the otitis media clinical pathway, if they have evidence that they have ordered an otoscope and are awaiting delivery. From 1st April 2024, an otoscope must be available, and all clinical pathways must be provided in bricks and mortar pharmacies registered to provide the service.

Q. Can remote Pharmacy First consultations be provided by a pharmacist who is not present on the pharmacy premises?
No. Any pharmacist providing the service must be on the pharmacy premises when providing a remote consultation to a patient.

Q. Once a pharmacy is registered to provide the service, will the service be listed on the pharmacy’s NHS website profile?
No. As is currently the case for the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service, Pharmacy First will not be visible as a service provided by the pharmacy on their NHS website profile.

Q. Do pharmacists have to do specific training programmes before providing the service?
No. Pharmacy owners must ensure that pharmacists and pharmacy staff providing the service are competent to do so, and are familiar with the clinical pathways, clinical protocol and PGDs. For some staff, this may involve completing some training programmes, but the learning needs of the individual will determine what training they need to undertake.

The Pharmacy First self-assessment framework, developed by CPPE and NHS England, can be used by pharmacists to consider their previous learning and experience in responding to minor illnesses in the pharmacy and to identify any gaps in their knowledge which they need to fill. Working through the self-assessment framework will also help them evidence to the pharmacy owner how they have achieved the necessary competence to provide the service.

Q. Do NHS prescription charges apply where the patient receives a medicine as part of the service?
Yes. The normal prescription charge rules apply to medicines or appliances supplied under the service, whether via the urgent medicines supply part of the service or the seven clinical pathways. The Pharmacy First IT system will print off a prescription token and the patient should complete the relevant parts of the reverse of the form to claim exemption from the prescription charge or to indicate they have paid the NHS prescription charge.

Q. How should I dispose of otoscope and ear thermometer covers and tongue depressors following use in the examination of a patient?
Within the Health Technical Memorandum 07-01: Safe and sustainable management of healthcare waste such single use items are classified as offensive waste – see page 81 of the document (2022 version). This is not clinical waste, but may contain body fluids, secretions or excretions and it needs to be disposed of in yellow and black-striped ‘tiger’ bags.

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