HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 14 April 2021

Media Summary

Mass Covid testing plans in disarray as pharmacies forced to ration supplies

The Telegraph, Lizzie Roberts and Bill Gardner, 13 April 2021


The Telegraph reports that caps on the number of Covid-19 tests pharmacies can order threatens to disrupt the Government’s mass testing scheme. Since its launch last Friday, pharmacies have been restricted to ordering one carton of lateral flow tests per day, providing enough tests for 54 people.


To manage demand, restrictions have also been placed on the number of tests individuals can collect on their household’s behalf. A source close to the rollout told the Telegraph that these restrictions were to prevent excess supply of unwanted tests while the demand for lateral flow testing is assessed.


Parliamentary Coverage

House of Commons – Written Question, 25 February 2021


Helen Hayes (Labour, Dulwich and West Norwood): To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, what assessment he has made of the capacity of local healthcare services to plan their covid-19 vaccine supply in advance to ensure that all second doses are given on time, with reference to the short notice of vaccine deliveries.


House of Commons – Written Answer, 13 April 2021


Nadhim Zahawi (Conservative, Stratford-on-Avon): COVID-19 vaccine supply is being managed at a national level by NHS England and NHS Improvement and Public Health England to ensure all areas get the supply they need to offer a first vaccine to all registered priority cohorts and to ensure all patients can receive the second dose within 12 weeks of the first. All vaccinations are recorded on the National Immunisation Management Service and individual General Practitioner patient records to enable a second vaccines to be provided in line with national guidance on delivery of the second dose.


House of Commons – Written Question, 25 March 2021


Kevan Jones (Labour, North Durham): To ask the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, whether the Government plans to end the use of paper prescriptions.


House of Commons – Written Answer, 13 April 2021


Jo Churchill (Conservative, Bury St Edmunds): The Government wants to enable as many prescriptions as possible to be sent electronically. However paper prescriptions for those who require them will still be available.


In England there has been an unprecedented growth in the use and availability of electronic prescriptions in primary care, and more is being done to expand their use. This builds on work already ongoing throughout the National Health Service, where in January 2021 89% of prescription items were sent via the Electronic Prescription Service.


NHS Digital is looking to improve the current functionality of electronic prescribing and extend its use into other care settings.


Expansion has been implemented in phases.

Full Coverage


Mass Covid testing plans in disarray as pharmacies forced to ration supplies

The Telegraph, Lizzie Roberts and Bill Gardner, 13 April 2021


The Government’s mass testing plans are facing disarray less than a week into the rollout after pharmacies were forced to ration supplies.


Twice weekly rapid tests were made available for everyone in England on Friday through an online ordering system and a new “Pharmacy Collect” service.


Anyone over 18 who is asymptomatic will be able to visit a participating pharmacy and collect a box of seven lateral flow tests to use twice a week at home. But pharmacies have been told they can initially only order enough tests for around 50 people because of supply concerns.


Supplies are also being limited for household size, with a maximum of four boxes – enough for four people for one week – being handed out per person.


The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), which represents NHS pharmacy contractors, has issued a warning that sites can initially only order one carton, containing 54 boxes. Each box for an individual person contains around seven test kits. After that initial order, they can only order one carton per day.


The PSNC said: “This is to support the equitable distribution of tests to all pharmacies that sign up to provide the service. When supplies can be normalised at up to 12 cartons a week, this will equate to a maximum of 648 boxes of seven tests.”


When the scheme launched last week, some pharmacies told The Telegraph they had not received any deliveries yet and did not expect to get any for weeks, while members of the public also reported problems sourcing the tests.


A source close to the rollout said the Government and NHS had “pretty much no idea” of the likely demand for lateral flow tests.


“It might be that people don’t actually want these things, because a positive result means you have to self-isolate. The idea has been to keep the distribution at one box a day until we know how many people want the tests,” they said.


“Pharmacies have limited space, so you don’t want to fill the store cupboards with tests no one wants.”


Gareth Jones, the head of corporate affairs at the National Pharmacy Association, said: “The difficulty of assessing initial demand probably helps explain the supply bumps and we are in touch with wholesalers about smoothing distribution of the test kits.”


The Department for Health and Social Care is aware some pharmacies had been unable to immediately offer the tests, but is working deliver stock to as many sites as possible.

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 14 April 2021

From Factory to Pharmacy

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