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East Sussex LPC: Urgent supply pilot is a ‘shambles’

Preparation for NHS England’s pilot scheme to supply emergency medication via community pharmacies has been “a shambles”, East Sussex local pharmaceutical committee (LPC) has said.

Brighton and Hove clinical commissioning group – which falls within the LPC’s area – was chosen to participate in the first phase of a pilot scheme.

But East Sussex LPC professional executive officer Vanessa Taylor told C+D on Monday (December 13) that pharmacies are having problems getting an NHS email account – a prerequisite of providing the service. “Nobody seems to know what is happening or how it is going to work,” she said.

“It is very clear” that pharmacies in the Brighton and Hove area will not be able to start providing the service before Christmas, as NHS England intends, she added.

Pharmacies looking to sign up to the scheme are each required to have a “premises specific” shared NHSmail mailbox, NHS England said last week.

Prior to December 1, pharmacies could request an NHSmail account via the administrator in their local NHS England team. However, the commissioner confirmed that it has closed the usual process of NHSmail applications for December so it can give “priority to those pharmacies intending to provide the [emergency supply] pilot”.

Ms Taylor described the new process for signing up to NHSmail as a “catastrophe” for pharmacies in her region.

“We had a really good process down here for issuing NHS email addresses and now that is all having to be put on hold because of this national process.”

"Teething problems" with existing scheme

Ms Taylor said as of last week, 23 out of “around” 70 pharmacies in Brighton and Hove had registered for the pilot. But after an existing NHS 111 referral scheme – which “about four or five” pharmacies had signed up to – had “teething problems”, she does not have much hope for the national scheme.

“The system is very slow, and sometimes you get inappropriately referred patients, for example on controlled drugs,” Ms Taylor said.

“We were hoping that the national scheme would be a better service for patients. And so far I don’t think that is the case.”

Ms Taylor has called for an emergency meeting with her local NHS England team – with whom she has a “really good relationship” – to discuss “logistics” and how the scheme will work in practice.

“I think they are finding it quite challenging with what to tell contractors. I honestly don’t think the full picture has been decided,” she added.

In response to the criticism, Sally Greensmith, Local Professional Network chair for pharmacy in Surrey and Sussex, said "with all pilots there are bound to be teething problems".

"These will be addressed before the full roll out of the service," Ms Greensmith said.

Are you planning to sign up for the urgent supply pilot?

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