NHS England is in “the middle of defining” a pilot to run in community pharmacies to help them detect undiagnosed cardiovascular disease (CVD) in patients, Ed Waller, NHS England director of primary care strategy, said at the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies conference late last month (January 23).
Because pharmacies “are embedded in their communities”, teams are in a strong position to detect symptoms in “people who are not making much other contact with the health system”, Mr Waller said. He added that the pilot will see community pharmacy staff providing “healthy living advice and signposting as appropriate”, referring patients to their GP if needed.
The pilot – which NHS England said last year would start in October 2019 – will initially run in three clinical commissioning groups and could be rolled out nationwide “if successful”, Mr Waller said.
A point-of-care testing (POCT) pilot, which will initially focus on symptoms of a sore throat, is expected to start by spring, Mr Waller said. The purpose of the pilot is to understand whether using antibiotics is the best course of action and “[avoid] inappropriate antibiotic prescribing in the system as much as we can”.
NHS England is also planning to pilot a smoking cessation referral pathway by spring. This will see patients who have started to quit smoking as in-patients continue their journey in community pharmacy.
“The long-term plan described [that], when people are in NHS settings as in-patients and it’s clear that they have a desire to quit smoking, we should, as the NHS, help them to do that, Mr Waller said.
“But obviously, you don’t want to keep people in hospital so that you can finish that smoking cessation process.
“And so, what we are going to pilot is the handover from these settings to community pharmacy of patients who have started their smoking cessation journey in one place and need support in the community to finish that and quit smoking for good.”
The smoking cessation referral pathway and the CVD and POCT services were first announced as part of the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework, which stated that the pilots were planned to start in 2019-20.