The C+D Award-winning Community Pharmacy Referral Service – which currently operates in Durham, Darlington, Tees, Northumberland, and Tyne and Wear – involves NHS 111 using PharmOutcomes or NHSmail to direct patients with “a range of low acuity conditions” to a pharmacy for a consultation.
In April, C+D reported that the pilot’s initial end date of March 31, 2018 was to be extended by six months to September. North of Tyne local pharmaceutical committee (LPC) announced the service had been extended to the end of the financial year – March 31, 2019 – this week (July 30).
Ann Gunning, head of services at the LPC, told C+D that by extending the pilot again, a full-year evaluation can take place with a “decent amount of data”.
“Pressure off primary care”
North of Tyne LPC said it hopes pharmacies “will consider supporting this service, reducing the burden on NHS urgent and emergency care services”.
“[It takes] pressure off primary care, pressure off out-of-hours [services] and ultimately A&E [departments] because people will sit and wait if they’re going to get [treatments] for free,” Ms Gunning added.
Ms Gunning told C+D she would like to see the pilot commissioned nationally as an advanced service under the pharmacy contract.
“It would make more sense as a national service for all the NHS 111 providers [and] for the patients as well,” she said. “It doesn’t matter whether you phone from Newcastle or Stockton…[NHS 111] is the service.”
In an NHS England blog post, Andre Yeung, the project manager and chair of Northumberland, Tyne and Wear local professional network, said the service had referred over 5,000 patients to pharmacies in its first four months.
“The signs are that this could be an exciting development in urgent care,” he added.
The Community Pharmacy Referral Service was crowned Health Initiative of the Year at this year’s C+D Awards.
Commenting on the win, England’s chief pharmaceutical officer Keith Ridge said: “I am extremely pleased that the scheme has been recognised for this award.”
“Highly skilled pharmacists are often best placed to give clinical advice to patients on a range of symptoms and treatments for minor health concerns.”
In May, NHS England announced digital referral service pilots would be extended to Devon, East Midlands and London later this year.