Health & NHS
Lateral flow demand not going away warns NPA
The Government must have a “candid conversation” with the public about the need to prioritise lateral flow tests for those who need them most, the National Pharmacy Association has warned.
In a statement earlier today the NPA said that although the Christmas rush may have subsided demand will likely remain high as the Omicron variant continues to spread rapidly.
NPA corporate affairs director Gareth Jones said: “It’s easy for people to imagine that the supply problems will go away because Christmas and New Year are over. However, there will be new demand driven by people returning to work and school in the weeks ahead.
“If the government can’t guarantee enough supply to meet the demand created by their policies then there needs to be a candid conversation with the public about prioritising essential workers including health care staff.”
Pharmacy teams facing abuse
There have been numerous reports of pharmacies facing abuse from members of the public over LFD supply issues, as demand far outstripped supply in some areas.
Speaking to the Daily Mail today, Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies chief executive Leyla Hannbeck commented: 'Pharmacies are having to put up with a lot of abuse and aggressive behaviours by members of the public because of this situation which is unfair.
'The demand is still very high now because the governments guidelines put a lot of emphasis on testing as a key out of self isolation, so naturally as Omicron cases are high people are reliant on tests to get on with daily life.”
Ms Hannbeck said supply has been “patchy” over the past few weeks and “has not improved” in recent days.
Alliance: We continue to support pharmacies
Wholesaler Alliance Healthcare, the sole distributor of LFDs in England, has come in for criticism for closing for four days over the holiday period.
In a statement issued to Pharmacy Network News, Alliance said it had circulated details of its Christmas bank holiday opening hours from November 26, and that in the week commencing December 20 it had distributed around nine million tests to UK pharmacies, all within the 72 hour delivery time it had agreed with the Government.
A spokesperson told PNN: “Alliance Healthcare continues to support community pharmacy and has delivered over 280 million lateral flow kits since the start of the Pharmacy Collect scheme.
“We are continuing to support the NHS and its efforts to fight COVID-19, and to distribute over 10 million lateral flow tests per week, to support the continued demand; millions more than originally planned with the UK Health Security Agency.”
RPS: Government has questions to answer
Speaking to BBC News yesterday, Royal Pharmaceutical Society England board chair Thorrun Govind said the Government’s decision to appoint only one LFD distributor has been a key factor in the current supply issues.
She said: “It’s hard to understand why there was only one sole distributor of these lateral flow tests in England.
“It’s very frustrating for our pharmacy teams who have borne the brunt of the public reaction to not being able to access lateral flow tests.”
The huge public demand for tests comes on top of routine pharmacy operations as well as Covid and flu vaccinations, said Ms Govind.
The UKHSA, which is responsible for ensuring public access to LFDs, has been approached for comment.