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Contractors on track to claim £300 fee but GP CPCS rollout still slow

Community pharmacy contractors in England are on track to claim a £300 engagement fee for the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS) GP pathway, C+D has learned.

Local Pharmaceutical Committees (LPCs) are encouraging contractors to claim the engagement fee before July 5.

Pharmacies can only do so if they can demonstrate they have taken a series of actions by tomorrow (June 30), which are specified in Annex F of the NHS Community Pharmacist Consultation Service document.

While LPCs have told C+D that contractors in their area have claimed or are on track to claim the engagement fee, work is still in progress on the implementation of GP referrals – which were formally enabled on November 1 last year.

Meetings and comms for pharmacy teams

All nine LPCs that got back to C+D with an update on the implementation of the GP pathway said they have organised virtual meetings and sent out regular communications to enable contractors to claim the £300 fee.

“Both Bexley, Bromley and Greenwich (BBG) and Lambeth, Southwark and Lewisham LPCs have provided the necessary meetings and webinars for contractors to claim their £300,” said BBG LPC chief Raj Matharu.

“I am confident that the majority of south-east London contractors will have claimed their implementation fee by June 30,” Mr Matharu added.

Community Pharmacy Cheshire and Wirral CEO Adam Irvine said his LPC “is continuing to monitor the status of Cheshire and Wirral contractor claims for the £300 engagement and set up payment and are encouraging them to act before the deadline”.

“A high number of contractors have already made their claim,” he added.

Community Pharmacy Swindon and Wiltshire (CPSW) chief Fiona Castle said her LPC organised “a series of evening engagement events in May and June to ensure that all contractors had the information necessary to claim implementation fee”.

Somerset LPC vice chair Sally Farmer said all contractors based in Somerset “have claimed their engagement fees”.

Zero or few GP referrals

As of last May, more than 90% of community pharmacies across England were offering the CPCS.

Progress, however, is still slow when it comes to GP referrals, say LPC chiefs.

“GPs just do not seem interested in wanting to engage with this service and Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) are not pushing them to do so,” Gloucestershire LPC community pharmacy partnerships manager Rebecca Myers said.

A spokesperson for Community Pharmacy Sussex and Surrey, who shared a statement on behalf of East Sussex, West Sussex and Surrey LPCs, said that “in Surrey and Sussex, we have not had referrals from GP practices to community pharmacies”.

However, that should change soon, following the rollout is expected to start in Surrey, the spokesperson added.

Simon Hay, North Staffs and Stoke LPC engagement and support officer said his LPC is “now seeing referrals from GP practices. The numbers sent are very variable and we only have a few practices generating significant numbers”, he added.

“I'm confident we will get there, but everyone in primary care is very busy, and it's hard work to get our voice heard among all the other priorities,” Mr Hay added.

Suffolk LPC CEO Tania Farrow said that “progress is very slow” in that country, and resources to introduce the pathway “are scarce”.

“We currently have no practices live in Suffolk and therefore have no referrals,” although the first practice is expected to go live on July 8, Ms Farrow said.

CPSW has appointed a dedicated figure to help speed up the process and make sure all parties are engaged.

“Although our implementation may be slower than other areas, we believe that this approach will give the traction we need to make this service a long-term success,” Ms Castle added.

RCGP fully supports the service

Between October 2020 and May 2021, 13,000 patients were referred for a minor illness consultation to a community pharmacy from 280 GP practices across England, NHSE&I head of pharmacy integration Ann Joshua said during a GP Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS) webinar in May, organised by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP).

On its part, the RCGP said it is very supportive of the CPCS service.

“At a time when we know primary care is busier than it’s ever been and we know that the multi-disciplinary team are all contributing to looking after patients to make sure that they are seen by the right healthcare professional at the right time in the right place, this is a very timely opportunity to make sure that we achieve those aims by providing early and appropriate help at the most convenient point in time,” RCGP vice-chair of external affairs Dr Gary Howsam said.

Introduced in October 2019, the CPCS service allows patients to be referred to a community pharmacy for consultation via NHS 111 and NHS 111 online as well as GP practices.

Does your pharmacy receive CPCS referrals from GP practices?

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