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CPCS: Pilot tool to boost GP referrals to pharmacies, AIMp urges

Pharmacies and GP practices could pilot a patient navigation tool as one potential solution to address the low number of GP referrals under the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS), it has been suggested. 

Leyla Hannbeck, CEO of the Association of Independent Multiple pharmacies (AIMp), told C+D that “members are eager to deliver” the CPCS, which she said “the public needs”.


Read more: NHSE&I warns GPs against 'informal' CPCS referrals to pharmacies


But according to information shared by contractors and local pharmaceutical committees, the number of GP referrals sent to pharmacies under the CPCS continues to be low, AIMp said in a statement published last week (April 6).

One potential solution to address the low number of referrals would be through the introduction of a patient navigation tool, called NHS Gateway, Dr Hannbeck suggested.


What is the NHS Gateway?


The NHS Gateway is a patient navigation tool for primary care.

The tool could, with time, evolve to be used as a “smart” triage system for primary care, the think tank Policy Exchange proposed in a report published last month.

It would eventually use machine learning and artificial intelligence “to direct consumers to services based upon real-time service activity information and patient data”.


Read more: CPCS referrals from GPs still a ‘slow burner’ due to COVID pressures, say LPCs


Dr Hannbeck said that AIMp would be happy to lead on a potential pilot of the NHS Gateway with support from NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) and the Department of Health and Social Care.

C+D has approached both organisations for comment.


Read more: Top GP blames low number of GP CPCS referrals on NHS bureaucracy


“Unfortunately, there is a lack of acceptance by the NHS that [the] GP CPCS is not working well,” said Dr Hannbeck. “Something has to change.”

“We are not saying this is the only solution, there will be other solutions. Let’s pick one and get this service delivered and improve the health of the nation,” she added.


Low engagement from practices


As of October last year, just 800 practices were signed up to offer the CPCS.

But while GP practices were incentivised to sign up by December 1 last year, it is believed that many “are not engaging because of time constraints and the worry that the service adds more work”, AIMp wrote.

With this is mind, “it is unlikely that the referrals from GP practices will increase in the future… as the process is not designed effectively”, AIMp added.

AIMp suggested that at present, “a typical reception supervisor reports that, from start to finish, making a referral to CPCS takes up to 10 minutes”, as the process currently involves the use of non-integrated systems.

“An integrated IT solution that would allow direct referrals from GPs to pharmacy clinical computer systems would go a long way towards alleviating the communication problems outlined above,” AIMp added.

Read more: Cornish walk-in pharmacy service aims to hit 10,000 consultations by March


Dr Hannbeck told C+D that she would share her proposal with the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC).

Commenting on the proposal, PSNC director of NHS services Alastair Buxton told C+D today (April 12): “Allowing referrals to CPCS via online patient triage systems is a logical development and we support NHSE&I undertaking work in this area, related to 111 online and triage systems used by general practices or urgent care providers.”  

PSNC is also making the case for a walk-in minor ailments service during its current funding negotiations with the government. 

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