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‘Big Brother is watching’: Pharmacy hounded over ‘unactioned’ referrals

A local commissioner has reminded contractors to “action” Pharmacy First referrals, despite them only remaining on the system due to IT issues.  

Commissioners have a “complete lack of understanding of the challenges pharmacy teams have”, pharmacist Jonathan Campbell said when he received a nagging email from his integrated care board (ICB).

Campbell, who works at Old School Pharmacy in Bristol, made the comment this week (March 19) after receiving an email from NHS South West’s collaborative commissioning hub – which is “hosted” by NHS Somerset ICB – last week (March 13).

“We have been informed by the national team that you have a large number of unactioned Pharmacy First referrals awaiting action on your system,” the email seen by C+D said.

Campbell told C+D yesterday (March 21) that the email was “really frustrating from [his] team’s point of view”.

He said that the pharmacy team “had completed” the consultations – having done “just over 500 Pharmacy First referrals during February”.

But the team “hadn’t had the time to record the information on PharmOutcomes” due to IT “chaos and increased pressure from patients” due to two recent pharmacy closures, he added.

Earlier this month, contractors were left unable to complete Pharmacy First consultations when IT provider PharmOutcomes updated its security system and kicked users off the site.

C+D reported that a week after the IT problems began, some contractors were “still getting nowhere” with accessing the site.

“Let’s put it this way”, Campbell said, the email “wasn’t very supportive or understanding of the wider struggles the team is dealing with”.

“Beware, Big Brother is watching,” he added.

C+D approached NHS Somerset ICB and NHS England (NHSE) for comment.


Fee claim deadline delayed for third time


The email comes amid more changes to Pharmacy First deadlines due to IT problems. 

This week (March 20), Community Pharmacy England (CPE) reported that NHSE and the Department of Health and Social Care (DH) had “further extended the submission deadline for February 2024 Pharmacy First claims” to 11.59pm on March 25. 

This is the third time the deadline, which was originally scheduled for March 5, has been extended.

CPE said that the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) believes “Pharmacy First IT system suppliers have resolved issues with the data they supplied to the MYS portal”.

“[The] NHSBSA has confirmed that pharmacy owners who submit their February declaration by the revised deadline, will receive their Pharmacy First payment on 1st May 2024 as expected”, it added.

The deadline extensions came after the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) warned that the NHS Manage Your Service (MYS) portal was “flawed” after pharmacies flagged that it “failed to report correct figures” for the number of Pharmacy First consultations delivered.

It said that the discrepancies could leave contractors “out of pocket” by “thousands of pounds”.

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