From April 2020 to January 2021, the chain could claim for 1,747 referrals, resulting in a CPCS income of £24,458, according to analysis of the service across its tens of branches across the UK – which an anonymous contractor who oversees the small pharmacy chain shared with C+D.
Despite a reported CPCS income of more than £24,000, the contractor calculated the net profit to be £4,913 once they factored in the cost of pharmacists’ time to complete each referral, the monetary loss from each uncompleted referral and the profit from over-the-counter sales under the service.
CPCS referral taks 20 minutes on average
The contractor told C+D that they calculated that, on average, it takes their pharmacists about 20 minutes to complete a CPCS referral.
However, there have been instances where pharmacists would be stalled with CPCS referrals for 60 minutes, they added. This could happen when pharmacists spend time on calls “trying to get the patient’s information”, they said.
About 30% of the CPCS referrals the chain cannot claim for are due to patients not being contactable, followed by patients deciding to book a GP appointment instead, according to the contractor.
The £14 fee – which contractors can claim for each completed urgent medicines supply or minor illness referral they make under the service – “does not represent a professional payment for our pharmacists’ professional time”, the anonymous contractor added.
“Massively” worse off
The contractor said according to their analysis, the pharmacy chain is “massively” worse off financially since the launch of the CPCS and the phasing out of medicine use reviews (MURs).
As well as the enhanced fee – at £28 – “MURs were much more manageable because we could intervene with the patients, we could select them, and we could have the discussion”, the contractor said.
“With CPCS, we’re relying on random people being sent to us and we can’t do any quality analysis of that. Everybody who gets sent through to us, we have to talk to, whether they are qualifying [for the service] or not,” they added.
A C+D investigation last year revealed that pharmacies that were signed up to the CPCS in its first six months were getting an average of just under £48 a month.
C+D also reported that, as of May 18 last year, more than 300,000 patients with a minor illness or in need of urgent medicines supply were referred to community pharmacy in just over six months since the launch of the CPCS service.