“I think it would be fair to say there are some things that NHS England have got to work through”, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) CEO told C+D yesterday (February 24).
Pilots for the next stage of the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS) – under which GP practices will refer patients to community pharmacy when appropriate – are ongoing, Mr Dukes said.
He added that NHS England needs to make sure “that we have seamless, better technology, and transfer of information between general practice and community pharmacy”.
“From October, I'd like to think that we could be in a position that we can switch this service on,” Mr Dukes said.
An NHS spokesperson said that the CPCS is "already delivering benefits for tens of thousands of NHS patients, with over 176,000 referrals since launch in October last year, and – informed by evaluation of ongoing pilots – the service will be further expanded.”
Expanding on Mr Dukes’s comments, PSNC head of NHS services Alastair Buxton said “there's quite a change process to go through at the GP practices’ end”.
“Behaviour change, humans and IT” all play a role when “you’re trying to implement a new system”, he added.
According to NHS England, 74 GP practices are involved in the pilot and they all “have [a] multitude of different IT systems”, Mr Buxton said.
“You've got humans interfacing with patients and IT systems, and there's a lot of potential ways that you can do that.
“That's what the pilots are testing. Some ways that have been piloted are working better than others, but that's a good result because that's what we want. We want to work out which are the best ways to do it,” he said.
Pharmacies in 11 regions are trialling the GP Digital Minor Illness Referral Service, with the pilots expected to run until March 31.
The Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework, published last year, said that GP referrals to community pharmacies under the CPCS “could be introduced nationally as early as April 2020”.
However, a joint letter to community pharmacy contractors – signed by the Department of Health and Social Care (DH), NHS England and PSNC and sent last week (February 23) – specified that, “subject to the success of the pilot, referral of minor illness from GP surgeries as part of the NHS CPCS” will be implemented in the second half of 2020-21.
The organisations anticipate CPCS referrals for urgent medicine supply from NHS 111 Online to be enabled by end of June this year, the letter added.
More than 176,000 patients with minor illnesses or urgent medication needs were referred to a pharmacist through the CPCS in its first 16 weeks, according to the most recent data on the service shared by the DH.