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Only two-thirds of GPs referring to pharmacies via CPCS, minister reveals

Only around two-thirds of GP practices are referring patients to pharmacies via the community pharmacist consultation service (CPCS), the pharmacy minister has revealed.

In a written parliamentary question tabled last month (March 28), conservative MP for Dartford Gareth Johnson asked what “steps” the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) was “taking to encourage GPs to refer patients to community pharmacies”.

Responding last week (April 4), pharmacy minister Neil O’Brien highlighted the CPCS, which was introduced in October 2019 and extended to include GP referrals in November 2020.

Read more: ‘Chaos’: GPs to ‘signpost’ patients to pharmacies from tomorrow

He revealed that “as of March 2023, 80% of all practices are connected and able to refer with 85% of those already actively referring” – meaning that just two-thirds (68%) of all practices are making referrals.

“NHS England (NHSE) has provided practice-level support to GPs to support implementation of the referral pathway,” he said, adding that more than two million referrals have been made to the service since its launch.

NHSE revealed in October that most primary care networks (PCNs) were failing to meet a CPCS referral target despite it being backed by a financial incentive – with just 5% on track.


Mixed success


Under the scheme introduced as part of the five-year community pharmacy contract, NHS 111 can refer patients to pharmacies for urgent medicines supply, advice or treatment for minor illness.

GPs can also refer for advice and minor illness treatment, while urgent and emergency care settings will shortly be able to do so for minor illness consultations or urgent medicine supply.

Read more: The jury's out on the community pharmacist consultation service

Pharmacists receive £14 per consultation made via the CPCS as long as the referral is completed.

But GP pharmacist Shilpa Patel last month told C+D that the CPCS had seen mixed success since its launch.

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

It comes as pharmacists last month warned that a new GP contract that sees GPs incentivised to redirect patients to pharmacies from April 1 will cause “chaos”.

Many raised concerns over workload increases as well as a lack of clear reimbursement for pharmacies receiving the referrals – with no mention of the formal funded CPCS pathway in the plans.

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

Some told C+D how they didn’t feel pharmacies had the capacity to accept referrals.

Meanwhile, others said that the CPCS has “been a complete flop” in their area, with pharmacies being sent patients without the correct referral.

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