In a blog published last month (February 26), Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) CEO Simon Dukes concluded that NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) should “mandate GPs to formally refer patients to their local pharmacies” as “there are only a few dozen practices even signed-up to make referrals into the CPCS”.
C+D has asked PSNC if it has approached NHSE&I to ask it to mandate GP referrals under the CPCS.
PSNC director of NHS services Alastair Buxton told C+D earlier this week (March 15) that mandating GP referrals “would demonstrate support for the service”.
However, “PSNC would much prefer to achieve positive engagement of practices through favourable national messaging and potentially introducing incentives in the GP contract”, he added.
Local pharmaceutical committees (LPCs) and regional NHSE&I teams are “working hard to support engagement at a local level”, Mr Buxton said.
He argued that NHSE&I could support the regional rollout of this CPCS pathway by, for instance, providing “additional funding to its regions to support this work in the next financial year”.
An NHSE&I spokesperson told C+D yesterday (March 16) that funding will be considered as part of an upcoming CPCS review and that it has nothing further to add at this stage.
“Gradual” rollout of GP referrals
GP referrals under the CPCS were enabled from November 1 last year. However, some preparatory work – involving pharmacy contractors, primary care networks and their member general practices, local NHSE&I teams and LPCs – is necessary to establish how the referrals need to be made, PSNC said in a factsheet on the GP referral pathway on its website.
Commenting on the first year of the CPCS, Mr Buxton told C+D that “increased referrals from NHS 111 would be welcomed, alongside the full rollout of the GP referral pathway to the service”.
“This would increase the value of the service to individual patients and the NHS,” he added.
The rollout of GP referrals has been “gradual due to the need for local referral pathways to be put in place first and inevitably the pandemic is distracting many general practices from considering the implementation of the pathway at this time”, Mr Buxton said.
On January 21, PSNC launched a video animation to show GP practices how they can make CPCS referrals to pharmacies, hoping to support the further rollout of this pathway.
In a primary care bulletin sent last month (February 16), NHSE&I said it decided to extend the engagement phase for GP referrals under the CPCS beyond its initial March 31 deadline to June 30.
The extension “recognises the impact of the COVID-19 vaccine programme on the ability of some areas to make progress with implementation of the pathway since its introduction as a national service on November 1, 2020”, NHSE&I said.
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 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.
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.