CPCS referral rates “have been much lower than had been hoped”, the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) CEO Malcolm Harrison told C+D earlier this month (March 4).
The CCA – which represents the largest multiples and supermarket pharmacies – obtained CPCS data from its members – which it could not share in full with C+D. The data collected “would indicate that fewer than three referrals are being made per pharmacy, per week”, Mr Harrison said.
“This means it is too early to assess how the service is working for contractors and its place within daily activity,” he added.
Pharmacy minister Jo Churchill said in a Westminster Hall debate last week (March 11) that the community pharmacies signed up to the CPCS have dealt with more than 750,000 referrals since the service launched.
However, contractors made just 60,316 claims to the NHS Business Service Authority (NHS BSA) between December 1, 2019 – the first month from which pharmacies could start claiming for CPCS referrals – and November 30, 2020, according to a freedom of information (FOI) request by C+D.
Promote service to NHS 111 and GPs
Mr Harrison argued that NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) needs to “step up its promotion” of the CPCS to NHS 111 and GP surgeries, “to ensure that more patients are referred to their pharmacy for care and support needs”.
In a blog published last month (February 26), Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) CEO Simon Dukes said that “there are only a few dozen [GP] practices even signed-up to make referrals into the CPCS”.
Few referrals or none a week
In response to a C+D tweet yesterday, some community pharmacists said they receive either "zero" CPCS referrals a week or as little as one or two.
Minimal maybe 1/2 a week. A lot of cd’s requested that 111 don’t filter straight to ooh services which is frustrating— t (@golfaddict1984) March 15, 2021
I receive maybe 1 a week on average, some weeks 0, some 2 maybe 3? Mostly for urgent supply, half of which are for CDs which we re-refer to OOH services anyway... then every so often a minor illness one. So frustrating for staff and patients when it’s a CD training needed?— Serena Matthews (@serenajmatthews) March 15, 2021
1 to 2 per month, half of which I have to refer back to NHS 111 A waste of time.— PharmerBirtie (@PharmerBirtie) March 15, 2021
Zero also— Chris Armstrong (@cjarmstrong2) March 15, 2021
Rethinking the service fee
Mr Harrison said that as NHSE&I and PSNC continue to develop the current five-year funding contract “there must be recognition that currently the funding for dispensing underwrites much of other cost of operating pharmacies”.
“As we transition from supply-based to a service-based model, the underlying cost of operating pharmacy businesses must be built into any service fees agreed,” he added.
A contractor at a small pharmacy chain told C+D last month that he believes the £14 fee “does not represent a professional payment for our pharmacists’ professional time”.
PSNC director of NHS services Alastair Buxton told C+D yesterday (March 15) that the £14 fee is “coming up for a review” in the 2021/22 negotiations.
“PSNC is running a time and motion study with a group of contractors to analyse the time needed to undertake the various elements of the service and help inform the review of its funding,” Mr Buxton added.
Every day this week – March 15-19 – C+D will be analysing the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS) a year into its launch. Read all the coverage in the dedicated hub and join the conversation on the C+D Community.