The Community Pharmacy Referral Service (CPRS) – which launched last week (December 4) across Durham, Darlington, Tees, Northumberland, and Tyne and Wear – involves NHS 111 using PharmOutcomes or NHSmail to refer patients with “a range of low acuity conditions” to a community pharmacy for a consultation, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) said.
“Symptom groups” selected for the service include rashes, constipation, diarrhoea, vaginal discharge, sore eye, mouth ulcers, failed contraception, vomiting, scabies and ear wax, PSNC said.
“If the patient requires treatment, this can be sold over the counter or supplied via a locally commissioned minor ailments scheme (if available),” the negotiator explained.
A record of the consultation and any medicine supplied will be made on PharmOutcomes, and a notification sent to the patient’s GP, it added.
Up to 618 pharmacies across the region are eligible to sign up to provide the service – which runs until March 31, 2018 – to a population of around 2.6 million people, PSNC said.
Hopes for national service
PSNC director of NHS services Alastair Buxton said: “The pilot should demonstrate how the community pharmacy network can be effectively used as part of the NHS urgent care system, and it will hopefully build the case for a similar approach to be taken across the whole of England."
“Management of minor conditions has always been an important part of the community pharmacy service, so it is great to see this service integrating that pharmacy care within the wider urgent and emergency care system.”
Andre Yeung, chair of Northumberland, Tyne and Wear local professional network (LPN) and CPRS project manager, said pharmacists involved have been “really enthusiastic about being able to perform a role as part of an integrated out-of-hospital care system”.
“They know that it will help NHS colleagues in other parts of the system,” Mr Yeung stressed.
According to PSNC, as few as 0.1% of NHS 111 referrals are currently directed to a community pharmacy, and Mr Yeung said he is aiming for the service to increase this to “as much as 8-10% of NHS 111 call volume” in the areas covered.
“The quality measures that we're putting in place with CPRS should provide a really high-quality reception point for patients that are referred to community pharmacy,” Mr Yeung added.
In order to provide the service, pharmacies must fulfil a number of requirements, including “access to IT in the consultation room, declaring that the service will only be provided by a pharmacist, access to NHSmail, access to NICE Clinical Knowledge Summaries, and access to [the] summary care record.”
“A robust evaluation will enable us to understand what benefits CPRS has had for patients and the NHS,” Mr Yeung said. “Any learnings will presumably be transferable into other projects in the future.”