Expected changes to Pharmacy Collect service

The Government has today announced plans to stop providing free COVID tests to the general public.

Following much media speculation, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has set out the Government’s plan for living with COVID-19, which includes ceasing provision of free lateral flow tests for most people from 1st April 2022.

The Prime Minister has said that the Government will still provide free COVID tests for symptomatic people for the oldest age groups and the most vulnerable. The Government will also work with retailers and pharmacies to ensure everyone who wants a test can buy one.

This announcement will have implications for the NHS community pharmacy COVID-19 lateral flow device (LFD) distribution service (known publicly as Pharmacy Collect). As the need for an end to state-funded provision of tests was signalled by the Government in a policy paper issued last year, this announcement was anticipated and PSNC has been discussing the various possible scenarios for the service with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) and NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) over recent weeks, ahead of ministerial decisions on the future of LFD supply.

Ministers made final decisions on testing and other COVID-19 matters today and the Government announcement followed immediately. PSNC will be discussing the implications of the policy decisions with DHSC and UKHSA and as soon as there is information to share, we will update pharmacy contractors and their teams through our usual communication channels.

Commenting on this afternoon’s announcement, Alastair Buxton, PSNC’s Director of NHS Services, 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”