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Referrals and red flag symptom training: Your CPCS queries answered

How many referrals pharmacies should expect and whether call handlers are trained to spot red flag symptoms were just two topics discussed during C+D's live Q&A on the CPCS.

C+D sat down with Andre Yeung, one of the architects behind the pilot that inspired the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS), to answer pharmacists' questions on the service in a live webinar last night (December 10). 

The interview featured questions submitted by C+D readers on various topics, including the service basics, what types of referrals pharmacists will receive, and how to manage the workload.

Watch the full interview in the video below. (Skip to 8.45 minutes for the start of​ the Q&A)

Number of patients coming through the CPCS

In response to a question about the number of NHS 111 referrals to expect via the service, Mr Yeung said it is “really difficult” to put an exact figure on it, as it is dependent on many variables.

However, “patients that are calling 111 are usually calling when a GP practice has closed”, he explained.

This “spike” in calls means pharmacies open after GP surgeries have typically closed, or at the weekend, are likely to receive more patient referrals via the CPCS, Mr Yeung said.

Call handler training

Mr Yeung also addressed pharmacists’ concerns at receiving referrals for patients with “obvious red flags”, who questioned whether the NHS 111 call handlers had had appropriate training on who to refer patients to in these cases.

“That is something that pharmacists have to bear in mind,” Mr Yeung said. “You've got a non-healthcare professional answering the phone, not being able to see the person that they're talking to, so it is very difficult already to get a steer on that.

“What [call handlers] are doing is following an algorithm and basing entirely what happens with that patient off the back of what that patient tells them,” he explained.

“When the patient attends the pharmacy, it's for the pharmacist to carry out the clinical assessment. They're the first healthcare professional that's been involved in assessing that patient, and it's the pharmacist that then decides what's appropriate and what's not.”

Mr Yeung urged pharmacists not to get “frustrated” if a patient is referred to them with red flag symptoms, as “that is part of what we are expecting pharmacists to do as part of the [service]”.

Watch the full video to hear Mr Yeung's advice on:

  • Whether independent prescribers can treat a patient privately if they are referred by NHS 111
  • How to ensure that locums receive support to provide the CPCS
  • How and when pharmacists should handle requests for quantities of controlled drugs schedule 4 and 5

Have you received many referrals from NHS 111 as part of the CPCS?

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