Following the CQC’s decision to suspend GP services at Elmdene Surgery in Greenhithe – including its Bean Surgery and Bennett Way Surgery branches – and Joydens Wood Medical Centre in Bexley at the end of November, pharmacies reported an increase in NHS 111 referrals, according to Kent local pharmaceutical committee (LPC) CEO Shilpa Shah.
Around 10 pharmacies were affected by the temporary closure of the surgeries, which were registered to the same GP provider, Ms Shah said. The pharmacies reported "between 70 and 130 referrals each in [the] three days following the surgeries' closure", she added.
The referrals were mainly for the urgent medicine supply function of the Community Pharmacy Consultation Service (CPCS). The situation stabilised after locum doctors were sent to the practices, which remained closed for a few days after the GP provider's registration was suspended on November 26, Ms Shah added.
In December, patients registered at the four surgeries were transferred to the care of other local GP service providers.
CPCS "saved the day"
The CQC "served an urgent suspension notice" on the registration the provider, after it concluded that "patients could have been exposed to the risk of harm if we did not do so".
This decision left approximately 12,000 patients without a GP, Ms Shah said, adding that patients were instructed to call NHS 111 for anything urgent.
The 314 pharmacies registered to offer the CPCS in Kent were only receiving an average of five referrals or fewer a week after the service – which sees pharmacies receive £14 for each consultation they complete following an NHS 111 referral for minor illnesses and urgent medicines supply – launched on October 29, Ms Shah said.
However, the number of referrals peaked to between 70 and 130 in the three days following the temporary closure of the GP practices, and the CPCS "really saved the day", Ms Shah added. This showed that "pharmacists will go the extra mile and make sure they are doing what is right for the patient", she said.
Ms Shah is part of a CPCS implementation group – set up by Surrey and Sussex LPC chief executive James Wood – that also includes a regional NHS England representative, NHS 111 providers, and the directory of service leads.
Ms Shah told C+D that she regularly updated the group on the situation in her area, following the closure of the four surgeries.
"NHS 111, the service leads and NHS England were all very supportive and worked collaboratively with the LPC to ensure patients' needs were met and that pharmacies were not inundated," she said.
Watch Andre Yeung, one of the architects behind the pilot that inspired the CPCS, answer pharmacists’ questions about the service in last's month C+D webinar (skip to 8.45 minutes for the start of the Q&A):