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CPCS to be ‘replaced’ by Pharmacy First service from February

Contractors who don’t sign up to offer the new Pharmacy First service will be “de-listed” from the community pharmacist consultation service (CPCS), the pharmacy negotiator has said. 

Pharmacy First “will replace the community pharmacist consultation service (CPCS)”, Community Pharmacy England (CPE), NHS England (NHSE) and the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) announced yesterday (November 16) in a joint letter to contractors.

The letter explained that the new optional advanced service, which CPE said will launch on January 31 subject to IT systems being in place, will include the urgent repeat medicine supply and NHS referrals for minor illness services previously commissioned as the CPCS.

The existing CPCS service will be incorporated into the new Pharmacy First service alongside the seven “new clinical pathways” that allow pharmacists to treat common conditions including with some prescription-only drugs under a patient group direction (PGD) “where clinically appropriate”.

“Existing referral routes for the CPCS” including NHS 111 and GPs “will apply” to the new common conditions clinical pathway, the letter said, adding that “patients will also be able to self-refer to a pharmacy”.

And it stressed that the £15 item of service (IoS) fee for each Pharmacy First consultation will be applied to consultations that would “previously have been delivered under the CPCS advanced service”, as well as any other consultations under the seven new clinical pathways.

CPE said that it hoped “independent prescribers will be able to use their skills to complete episodes of care within the service without the need for a PGD” in the future.


Pharmacies could be “de-listed from CPCS”


In a briefing about the new service this week (November 15), CPE’s director of NHS services Alastair Buxton said that “the vast majority of pharmacy owners already provide the CPCS”.

And he said that CPE expects that “the vast majority of pharmacy owners will opt to provide Pharmacy First”.

However, he highlighted that the new deal is “wrapping up the CPCS into this new service” so if contractors “don't opt in to provide it by January 31 or just before” they will be “de-listed from the list of pharmacies providing CPCS”.

He said that pharmacies “can't provide CPCS as is now” when the new service commences but that if they “need a little bit more time, they could feasibly be de-listed, get themselves ready and then re-register”.

“However, that would mean that they would lose out the £2,000 upfront payment that I'm sure is going to incentivise lots of people,” he added.

He said that “further details will confirm” an official sign-up deadline.


“All or nothing”


Mr Buxton also stressed that the new Pharmacy First service is “all or nothing” for bricks-and-mortar pharmacies.

“Everyone's going to provide all seven” common conditions covered by the service, he said – which are sinusitis, sore throat, earache, infected insect bite, impetigo, shingles and uncomplicated urinary tract infections (UTIs) in women.

However, distance selling pharmacies (DSPs) will not be required to provide the earache pathway “because of the need to do an otoscope examination”, so must cover six of the seven conditions, he added. 

Commenting on the “bundling” together of services under Pharmacy First, CPE chief executive Janet Morrison said that it was “very much driven by what will make sense to people on the high street…going into the pharmacy”.

She added that ministers wanted “the public to understand what kind of pharmacy” contractors are offering “and what’s available there”.

NHSE yesterday (November 16) announced the long-awaited details of its primary care recovery plan reforms – including launching the new Pharmacy First service from “early next year” and expanding the pharmacy contraception and blood pressure check services from next month.

Check the C+D site for the latest coverage on this developing story

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