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‘Financially inequitable’: NHSE switches off 111 referrals to DSPs

Community Pharmacy England (CPE) has branded an NHSE move to turn off online 111 referrals for consultations to distance selling pharmacies (DSPs) without notice as “totally unacceptable”.  

NHS England (NHSE) “took a decision to remove DSPs from being a referral option within the 111 online referral pathways for urgent medicines requests and minor illness consultations at the time the Pharmacy First service launched”, CPE director of NHS services Alastair Buxton revealed to C+D this week (February 28).

He told C+D that NHSE “did not discuss this change to the system with CPE or make [the negotiator] aware of the change”.

And he said that the negotiator had “significant concern and frustration” about NHSE’s “lack of transparency on the changes”.

Mr Buxton also raised concerns about “the adverse impact this will have on the ability of one part of the community pharmacy sector to receive Pharmacy First referrals”.

In an email sent to a contractor last week and seen by C+D, Mr Buxton said that DSP referrals being switched off without notice was “totally unacceptable”.

“This change is financially inequitable to DSPs compared to all other pharmacies and we will discuss that with [the Department of Health and Social Care (DH)] and NHSE and how that can be put right,” he added at the time.

Previously, CPE had said that DSPs would “be able to provide” consultations for six out of seven of the conditions covered by the new Pharmacy First service, which launched at the end of January.

At the time, the negotiator said that DSPs would not be able to provide the earache pathway “because of the need to do an otoscope examination”.


“Unbelievable and unacceptable”


Pharmacy owner Sri Kanaparthy told C+D this week (February 28) that “as it stands, 111 online referrals for all services are still turned off for DSPs”.

“The whole scenario shows that CPE doesn’t have the interests of DSPs covered…I find it extraordinary that such basic details were missed,” he added.

He said that is “definitely an issue that is unfair” to DSPs, adding that it is “outside the scope of the current legislation to favour certain parties”.

And last week (February 22), contractor Waqas Ahmad took to X - formerly known as Twitter - to share his thoughts on the removal of DSPs from NHS 111 online referrals.

He called the change “remarkably unfair” and questioned how “such a situation [was] allowed to occur”.

Responding to the post on the same day, superintendent pharmacist Derviş Gürol simply deemed the move “unbelievable and unacceptable”.

And Mr Ahmad added that the change would put DSPS “at a serious disadvantage” while they are “still expected to meet same service thresholds as all other pharmacies”.

In November, CPE announced that payments awarded to pharmacies offering the new Pharmacy First service would be “recovered” or unclaimable if minimum consultation numbers weren’t met.


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