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Just 5% of PCNs currently on track to meet CPCS referral target

Most primary care networks (PCNs) are failing to meet a Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS) referral target, despite it being backed by a financial incentive, according to figures shared by NHS England (NHSE).

Just 5% of PCNs are currently on track to achieve the CPCS target of making 0.65 referrals per 1,000 registered patients per week, or 34 over the course of a year – taking into consideration the total patient population of all the practices in a PCN.

Chao Wang, a chief pharmaceutical officer (CPhO) 2022/2023 clinical fellow, shared this update during a session on the delivery of the CPCS at the Pharmacy Show in Birmingham yesterday (October 16).

The estimate is based on General Practice Extraction Service (GPES) data recorded between April and August 2022, Ms Wang confirmed.

Since April, PCNs have been given access to financial incentives for referring patients to the CPCS under the 2022/2023 PCN contract.

England's CPhO David Webb revealed earlier this year that 4,503 GP practices were signed up to refer patients to community pharmacies under the CPCS, representing about 68% of the GP sector.

 

Pharmacies receive 68,000 referrals per month

 

NHSE has also seen “a significant increase” in referrals from NHS 111 for minor illnesses and urgent medicines supply in recent months, Ms Wang revealed.

Since April 2022, the number of referrals pharmacies have received from NHS 111 has reached 68,000 per month, she said.

NHSE estimates that “over 7,000 potential general practice appointments a week are currently diverted to community pharmacies” via CPCS, she added.

Data released by NHS Business Services Authority last week (October 13) showed that 9,868 pharmacies provided the CPCS in 2021/22, receiving fees totalling £12.5 million.

According to the same dataset, the number of pharmacies offering the CPCS decreased by 1.6% from the 2020/2021 total of 10,029.

In June, England’s CPhO Mr Webb revealed that as of May, pharmacies had completed 213,043 minor illness referrals from GPs under the service since October 2019.

Meanwhile, 1,266,003 referrals from NHS 111 were completed in the same period.

 

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