While some “details about implementation” are still being discussed, the rollout date for GP referrals through the community pharmacist consultation service (CPCS) has been confirmed as November 1, NHSE&I head of pharmacy integration Anne Joshua wrote in response to a question posed by C+D at the virtual Clinical Pharmacy Congress earlier this week (September 23).
Pharmacies interested in taking part in the service are being encouraged to contact their local NHS pharmacy contract team, as NHSE&I is keen to help areas “prepare as soon as they wish”, Ms Joshua said in response to a query from another attendee.
Results from pilot sites
From June to July 2019, GP referrals to pharmacies were piloted across five areas: Cheshire and Merseyside sustainability and transformation partnership (STP); Lancashire and South Cumbria integrated care system (ICS); North East and North Cumbria ICS; Greater Manchester ICS; and Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire STP – Ms Joshua said at a session about GP referral to the CPCS.
In September 2019, more sites were added as part of the second pilot phase, with the third phase involving “spreading those pilots and the experience from those pilots to other areas”, Ms Joshua added.
At present, 91 GP practices are live with the service, making referrals to 153 community pharmacies. These pilot sites are “clearly demonstrating [that] pharmacists are able to complete the consultations in 90% of cases”, she said. This compares to 88% for NHS 111 referrals, Ms Joshua added.
Unlike in the case of the NHS 111 pathway, pharmacies will not receive referrals for the emergency supply of medicines under the general practice pathway.
Patient satisfaction and opportunities
The pilots have shown that “patients are satisfied with the service and they do really value that confidential conversation with the pharmacist”, Ms Joshua said.
"Service users have cited the convenience, that it’s time saving and they are able to fit appointments around their working hours," she added.
Ms Joshua said that some CCGs have commissioned further services “to enable supply of some prescription medicines under patient group directions, on the back of that CPCS consultation”.
Speaking at the virtual Local Pharmaceutical Committee conference, which was organised by the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) and took place last week (September 16), PSNC CEO Simon Dukes revealed that GP referrals to pharmacies under the CPCS would go live in the autumn, but did not confirm the exact date of the launch.
In March this year, it was announced that plans to extend pilots for CPCS referrals from GP practices to community pharmacy, which had previously been expected to be rolled out nationally “as early as April”, were being put on hold due to COVID-19.
In August, C+D revealed that community pharmacies in England that had signed up to provide the CPCS were paid just under £48 a month, on average, for offering the service in its first six months.