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Pharmacy hosts free out-of-hours GP consultations via video

doctor video consultation pharmacy cumbria
Castlegate Pharmacy is a 100-hour pharmacy in rural Cockermouth, Cumbria. Credit: Tim Herrick

A pharmacy in Cumbria looks set to become a “one-stop shop” for patient care by offering free out-of-hours GP consultations via video link, C+D has learned.

Castlegate Pharmacy, Cockermouth has already offered “a handful” of patients the free video call service since it went live last week, superintendent pharmacist Mark Stanhope told C+D on Thursday (August 10).

When patients present at the pharmacy, staff put a call into the out-of-hours support team running the service – Cumbria Health on Call (CHOC) – who then arrange for a GP to video call the patient in the pharmacy’s consultation room, Mr Stanhope explained.

The GP consultation is available during the hours that the 100-hour pharmacy is open and when CHOC operates – from 6.30pm - 8am on weekdays and all weekend.

“It’s better than a telephone call, but is nowhere as good as face-to-face [care],” Mr Stanhope said. However, face-to-face care from the nearest GP surgery in rural Cumbria means a “60-mile round-trip” he stressed.

While CHOC is funded by the NHS, Castlegate Pharmacy does not receive a payment for hosting the patients' GP sessions, Mr Stanhope said.

“Of course we all want funding for everything we do,” he said, but this is a step in improving GP and pharmacist relations.

As the GP gives the patient the final diagnosis the pharmacist is ineligible for a minor ailments fee, he added.

“One-stop-shop” for patients

CHOC information management and technology manager Richard McGregor said that the service makes the pharmacy a “one-stop shop” for patients medically, as patients can receive medicines prescribed in the consultation from Castlegate.

The cost to CHOC of installing the camera and screen is “about £400”, Mr McGregor said, “nothing really” for the ability to offer a GP video consultation. CHOC continues to own the technology after it has been installed and provides Castlegate with technical support, he added.

CHOC would like to make the service available in all the county’s “132” pharmacies, but Mr Mcgregor acknowledged this would be a “massive ask”.

For other Cumbrian pharmacies to be eligible to adopt the scheme, their opening hours would have to crossover with those of CHOC, Mr McGregor said.

“The technology is going to be there for the full 24-hours, seven days a week, 365 days a year," he said. "So if there were other healthcare professionals and GP services that there was a need to connect to, then I'm sure that's something the pharmacy could pick up.”

The service means CHOC's GPs are "able to connect with patients closer to their homes, with the pharmacist as a community helper".

Would your pharmacy offer a GP video consultation?

Ari Butt, Community pharmacist

Great service but without any pharmacy remuneration it doesn't make business sense to me ! I have wages to pay , I'm not a charity ! 

Matt G, Community pharmacist

Apart from the fact that you get custom from a much larger area than before, at hours you wouldnt have been busy before, because you now offer an unrivaled and very much in demand service?

No one is giving handouts in pharmacy anymore, innovating a new service makes business sense to me! 

Mi Wa, Community pharmacist

A group run by doctors (OOH) setting up an exclusive arrangement with a pharmacy run by doctors that will increase business for that pharmacy.  How innovative and unconflicted.

C+D should ask the question, who approached who here?

Ilove Pharmacy, Non Pharmacist Branch Manager

What we do know is that the ever effective GPhC would come down like a tonne of bricks onthe pharmacy if anything dodgy was going on. This is where your hard earned subscription monies are put to good use. 

mark straughton, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Can't you see, of course they're getting paid for it. They're an independent pharmacy business and I think they've agreed with OOH for this service. Why would they shout about how much they're getting paid in case other pharmacy's start vying for this service?

Ben Merriman, Community pharmacist

Please look at what Nat Mitchell and Mi Wa have said.  All is not as it seems.  A GP owned pharmacy within the same building as said GPs offering a GP led OOH service...

mark straughton, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Nope, still doesn't make sense.

Firstly there's mention of a Main Street pharmacy which I assume isn't out of hours? so are they open Saturday nights and Sundays? Doubt it. Are they planning to do so? Doubt it. So why are they involved, or should be involved whatsoever?

Secondly, where's the link between the GP's who own the pharmacy and the GP's who work/operate their local OOH?

Maybe, just maybe, this pharmacy has decided to make better use of its out of hours opening to reach out to the OOH here. Who knows?


Mi Wa, Community pharmacist

There is generally a link between GP's. LMC, CCG etc. They are sometimes even married to each other, which is a tenuous link but true all the same.  As a pharmacist I often do prescriptions from OOH that are written by a GP from my local practice.  I'm not from that area, but I can see how there could be a link between the practice and OOH.

mark straughton, Pharmaceutical Adviser

Ok, so your 'exclusive arrangement' is now 'generally a link' which is a 'tenuous link'? This isn't a very profound or insightful opinion. In fact, you've completely contradicted yourself.

Mi Wa, Community pharmacist

No I haven't.  

Is it an exclusive arrangemet at present? Yes. The article tells us so. 

Do I categorically know that the people who own the pharmacy also work for OOH? No.  

I stated that I didn't know the situation there, but commented on my experience of overlap, which may well be the case here.  Does my opinion need to be 'profound'.




Valentine Trodd, Community pharmacist

Brilliant! More free services - have we learned nothing?

Nat Mitchell, Community pharmacist

Putting the finances to one side for a moment and looking at this from a purely service provision aspect, I would have liked to have at least been given the opportunity to discuss providing this service.  As far as I am aware this arrangement came as a surprise to the other pharmacies in the county.

Our pharmacy is admittedly not open for the same number of hours as Castlegate Pharmacy, but we are arguably better positioned geographically on the towns Main Street and possibly see more patients. 

Offering this service to one pharmacy (GP owned) does little for inter-professional relations I'm afraid.


Sarah Smythe, Information Technology

OMG. pharmacists are there own worst enemies, everything is blummin free . It is beyond belief ???????????????

Uma Patel, Community pharmacist

Another Free Service. DoH will be delighted

Priyesh Desai, Superintendent Pharmacist

is there any commercial sense in this?

A Hussain, Senior Management

Script figures and getting people in the shop must be the only draw.

Ben Merriman, Community pharmacist

All "132" pharmacies.  Love it!!!

A Hussain, Senior Management

It would have to be more than a 100-hour pharmacy to match the hours stated in the story!

Thomas Cox, Editorial

Thanks for your comment. The service is offered in Castlegate Pharmacy when its opening times coincide with those of CHOC. This is all weekend, or on weekdays from 7-8am and 6.30-10pm. 

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