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1,200 patients referred to pharmacies via ‘low acuity condition’ pilot

Over 1,200 patients have so far been referred to community pharmacies, rather than hospitals or GP practices, as part of a pilot to treat “low acuity conditions”.

The Community Pharmacy Referral Service (CPRS) – which launched on December 4 across Durham, Darlington, Tees, Northumberland, and Tyne and Wear – involves NHS 111 using PharmOutcomes or NHSmail to refer patients with “a range of low acuity conditions” to a community pharmacy for a consultation, according to the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee.

In its first two months, 1,249 patients were referred to local pharmacies during late-night, weekend and out-of-hours periods, NHS England said in a statement on Wednesday (February 7).

As part of the service, a participating pharmacy receives an electronic notification that a patient has been referred, and is expected to follow up with the patient if they do not attend the pharmacy within 12 hours, the commissioner explained.

As of December 31, around 60% of callers had attended their notified pharmacy, NHS England said.

Of the callers who attended, 39% received advice and were supplied an over-the-counter medicine, while 22% received advice only, it added.

LPC hopes for national rollout

North of Tyne local pharmaceutical committee (LPC) chief officer Stephen Blackman told C+D yesterday that pharmacies receive a £14 fee for every patient consultation it holds as a result of an NHS 111 referral, which is funded by the Pharmacy Integration Fund. The consultation is free for patients.

“We are hopeful that the service will continue beyond March 31, which it is currently funded to,” he said.

NHS England told C+D this afternoon that there will be a full evaluation of the pilot, and it is “likely” to be extended beyond March.

Mr Blackman branded it “an excellent service that we really should be building upon and rolling out nationally”.

A “large proportion” of patients in his area using NHS 111 would otherwise have gone to out-of-hours service providers or A&E, so “it is definitely diverting people to a more appropriate level of care”, he said.

390 pharmacies signed up

Chair of Northumberland, Tyne and Wear local professional network (LPN) and CPRS project manager Andre Yeung said over 390 pharmacies have signed up to the service so far. C+D reported in December that over 600 pharmacies were eligible to provide it.

The latest findings are "very encouraging indeed", with "pharmacists playing an important new role in supporting emergency systems in the north-east", Mr Yeung said.

"The data we've collected tells us that local stakeholders – including clinical commissioning groups, NHS 111, pharmacists and patients themselves – really do value the new service," he added.

Would you sign your pharmacy up to receive patient referrals?

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