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GPs need to ‘feel confident’ about Pharmacy First referrals, says BMA

Dr Julius Parker told a Westminster Health Forum policy conference that the BMA sees Pharmacy First as an “opportunity” amid sector concerns about referrals.

The British Medical Association (BMA) “broadly welcomes the Pharmacy First scheme”, according to Dr Julius Parker, chief executive of Surrey and Sussex local medical committee (LMC) and a deputy chair of the BMA general practitioners committee in England (GPC England).

Parker today (July 3) told a Westminster Health Forum policy conference on the “next steps for pharmacy in England” that Pharmacy First is perceived as an “opportunity” for general practice and had been promoted “among general practitioners” by the BMA.

Read more: GPs switch off update patient record function in new Pharmacy First IT twist

But he said that “it does take time for GPs to be fully aware of the opportunities of a new service”.

GPs need to “feel confident about referring to a new service”, he added.

Parker also clarified that the BMA’s call to switch off the ability for pharmacies to input consultation data into GP patient records had “nothing to do with the delivery of Pharmacy First services” but was rather a “challenge” around GP data controllership.


“Got to do more work”


Community Pharmacy England (CPE) director of NHS services Alastair Buxton told the policy conference that the community pharmacy sector has “got to do more work to get referrals from general practice, 111 and others”.

Buxton said that the “behaviour change” would “take time” and that the sector was “very much at the start of that journey”.

He added that CPE understands the BMA’s “wider concerns” about the GP Connect update record issue.

Read more: Pharmacies set to receive just £180m of £645m ‘promised’ Pharmacy First funding

But yesterday, Buxton said it was “counterintuitive to switch off functionality designed to reduce administrative workload at practices and improve patient safety”.

He today noted that “a lot of local pharmaceutical committees (LPCs)” were engaging with GP receptionists to help them understand what community pharmacies could do as part of Pharmacy First.

And he said that “some money” from Pharmacy First’s funding had recently been transferred to England’s integrated care boards (ICBs) to fund “pharmacists or others to act as the primary care network lead” to “support practices and primary care networks (PCNs)”.


“Ongoing concern”


Also speaking at the conference, National Pharmacy Association (NPA) chair Nick Kaye told delegates that there had been “a bit of clunkiness around implementation” of Pharmacy First, including referrals from GPs.

Kaye said that Pharmacy First’s budget of £645 million does not seem “appropriate for demand”, which is “in other parts of the system”, predicting that just £200m of the total sum would be spent over two years.

Meanwhile, CPE chief executive Janet Morrison said in a blog post published yesterday (July 2) that “the ability of pharmacy owners to reach the monthly payment thresholds is a major ongoing concern” for the negotiator.

Read more: Pharmacy First: New funded pharmacy PCN liaison role as just 31% of GPs refer

Morrison said that community pharmacies are not seeing “the numbers of walk-ins or referrals needed” as she laid the blame at the door of “an underwhelming public marketing campaign”.

“It is completely unreasonable to penalise pharmacies financially for the NHS’ failure to drive public and general practice behaviour changes,” Morrison added.

Last week, the NPA revealed that pharmacies in England face missing out on £465m of the £645m Pharmacy First funding pledged by the government.

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