Community pharmacy teams in Suffolk are now offering free coronavirus (COVID-19) rapid test kits as they help to support the lifting of national restrictions and the pandemic recovery.
The new Pharmacy Collect service will make coronavirus test kits – known as lateral flow devices – readily available to people without symptoms free of charge from local NHS pharmacies.
The new service, which launches this month, coincides with the phased reduction of the existing community testing centres provided by Suffolk County Council (SCC).
SCC testing sites in Brandon, Debenham, Elmswell, Eye, Hadleigh, Halesworth, Holbrook, Nayland, Needham Market and Saxmundham are scheduled to close this Friday (16 April).
Pharmacy Collect offers a convenient and local option for the public to collect test kits from. NHS Test and Trace research found that people prefer to access testing close to home, with pharmacists trusted by their local communities.
The Proprietary Association of Great Britain (PAGB), also found that since the start of the pandemic, almost one in three people are now more likely to visit a pharmacy for advice before seeking help elsewhere.
Anyone can request a box of test kits (7 tests per box) from the pharmacy counter for regular testing at home or elsewhere.
The test distribution service from pharmacies, along with other locations, sits under NHS Test and Trace and forms part of the Government’s COVID-19 roadmap plan.
By widening the offer of tests, it could help to identify COVID-positive cases in the community.
Stuart Keeble, Director of Public Health for Suffolk County Council, said: “Testing plays a vital role in the fight against coronavirus as up to one in three people who have it don’t show symptoms.
“The Pharmacy Collect service makes getting a lateral flow test easy for people as pharmacies are at the heart of our communities.
“Testing, along with vaccinations, and following the current guidance is how we will get through this pandemic and schemes such as this which enable people to get a test as easily as picking up a prescription are to be welcomed.
“I urge the public to play their part in the fight against COVID-19 by testing regularly. This is a scheme that will help them to do so.”
Pharmacist Nick Smith, Director of Clare Pharmacy in Clare, said: “As a community pharmacist, our team is really excited about starting the Pharmacy Collect service to help keep our community safe.
“Our family run pharmacy has been offering local public health services for over 40 years and my patients appreciate us being open and available to talk to even in these difficult times.
“There is so much that pharmacists and their teams can do to help our communities as the COVID restrictions are eased.”
Tania Farrow, Chief Officer for the Suffolk Local Pharmaceutical Committee, said: “Community pharmacy provision of COVID testing means that people in Suffolk will have greater access to this service.
“Many people choose pharmacy for health services because they can visit pharmacies in a variety of locations and at a time that suits them.
“Community pharmacists are looking forward to doing their bit as people return to work and education. This is just one of many examples of how pharmacy teams have helped support patients, the public and the nation during the pandemic.”
You can use the NHS Test and Trace Site Finder map to locate participating pharmacies in your area: https://maps.test-and-trace.nhs.uk/
Please also visit the Suffolk County Council website for more information on COVID-19 testing services available in our region: https://www.suffolk.gov.uk/coronavirus-covid-19/getting-a-test/