The Community Pharmacy Referral Service involves NHS 111 using PharmOutcomes or NHSmail to refer patients with “a range of low acuity conditions” to a community pharmacy for advice and potentially an over-the-counter (OTC) medicine.
The service operates across Durham, Darlington, Tees, Northumberland, and Tyne and Wear. The extension of the pilot's end date – from March 31 to September 30 – was confirmed by Andre Yeung, the project manager and chair of Northumberland, Tyne and Wear local professional network, last week (April 3).
“This will give us a chance to further test and develop the digital integration of community pharmacy for minor illness,” he said.
5,000 referrals to pharmacies
North of Tyne local pharmaceutical committee (LPC) head of services Ann Gunning told C+D there had been 5,101 referrals made to pharmacies via the pilot up to the morning of April 6.
Eighty per cent of patients reported being “very satisfied” with the service, she added.
“Around two-thirds of consultations end with the pharmacist providing advice only or advice with the sale of an OTC medicine,” Ms Gunning said, and “less than 10% of consultations are referred into a minor ailments service.”
“However, it must be noted that not all clinical commissioning groups in the area commission a minor ailments service, and some commissioned services restrict the patients who can access the service,” she stressed.
Other areas of the country are now interested in implementing the service, Ms Gunning told C+D.
Evidence community pharmacy can support NHS
“The LPCs are very happy about the extension, as this will provide 10 months of data [in total] to allow an evaluation of the service,” Ms Gunning said.
“Community pharmacy can support the NHS by easing the pressure on services, taking low acuity conditions out of GP practices and urgent care settings,” she added.
“This service gives us the opportunity to actually test that and provide a robust evidence base.”
In a statement in January, five weeks into the pilot, Sunderland LPC claimed a doctor had said that during a “chaotic” Christmas period, “there would have been even greater pressure on the system without [the service]”.