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National pharmacy NHS 111 referral service to launch on October 29

Pharmacies across England will receive £14 for each consultation resulting from a referral from NHS 111 under a new advanced service launching at the end of October.

Pharmacies in England can from today (September 2) register their interest in providing the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS), which will see them receive referrals from NHS 111 from October 29 for minor illnesses – such as rashes, constipation and vaginal discharge – and urgent medicines supply.

The advanced service follows on from two pilots – the Digital Minor Illness Referral Service (DMIRS) and the NHS Urgent Medicine Supply Advanced Service (NUMSAS) – and aims to establish community pharmacy as the “first port of call” for low acuity conditions, as well as reduce demand on urgent care services, NHS England said.

Pharmacies must meet a set of requirements (see below) to provide the service and will receive £14 for every consultation completed – either over the phone or face-to-face – following a referral from NHS 111.

As set out in the five-year funding contract in July, pharmacies signing up to provide the CPCS by December 1 will receive a £900 “transitional payment”, and those who do so by January 15 will get £600.

How will the service work?

Under the CPCS, an NHS 111 advisor will refer a patient to a participating pharmacy via a dedicated IT system – which pharmacies must check at regular intervals – and advise them to call the pharmacy, so a pharmacist can assess their need for an urgent medicine supply, NHS England explained.

The consultation can be conducted entirely over the phone in certain circumstances, such as if a patient does not need to pick up a prescription. However, the pharmacist may deem it necessary to invite the patient to attend a face-to-face consultation before making an emergency supply, it added.

As well as emergency supplies, referrals may lead to pharmacists giving advice, providing over-the-counter medicines, referring patients to locally commissioned pharmacy services, or to other appropriate services and healthcare professionals, NHS England said.

The service must not be actively promoted to the public and should not be used as a replacement for the normal repeat prescription ordering and dispensing processes, the commissioning body stressed.

Service requirements

Pharmacies participating in the service must have a consultation room and from April 2020 be able to access the CPCS IT system from the room. Pharmacists delivering the consultations must have access to the summary care record and the pharmacy’s shared NHS mail inbox.

Contractors must have standard operating procedures in place to support the running of the service and “be satisfied that all pharmacy staff involved in the provision of the service are competent to do so, including any locum staff”, NHS England said.

It will initially fund a CPCS IT system to manage the referrals and log the outcomes. However, by 2021 contractors will be expected to have decided on the IT system they wish to use to continue to deliver the service.

New pharmacy service for winter

Commenting on the launch of the CPCS, NHS England’s deputy chief pharmaceutical officer Bruce Warner said: “We want community pharmacies to start registering for the consultation service, so we have it up and running across the country for the benefit of patients this winter.”

The CPCS represents a “major step change” for the NHS and “fully uses the clinical skills and expertise local pharmacists have to offer”, he added.

From October 29, pharmacies signed up to provide the CPCS will only receive referrals from NHS 111, but NHS England expects to add additional “strands” to the service –such as GP and urgent care referrals – following pilots, it said.

Pharmacies can sign up to the service –and claim their £900 transitional payment – on the NHS Business Services Authority website.

Read C+D's editor's initial take on the new advanced service

Will you sign up to deliver the referral service?

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