Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS) announced last week (May 27) that the service is being tested “in a small number of community pharmacies”. Testing is being done by the Tayside and Dumfries and Galloway health boards “over the next two weeks,” before the service is rolled out more widely.
A document written by pharmacist Clare Morrison – who is leading on the development of the service on behalf of NHS Scotland – and shared by CPS, states that guidance is currently being developed to support the rollout of Near Me. This will cover the technical set-up and “appropriate clinical use” of the service within community pharmacy, Ms Morrison explained in the document.
Community pharmacies that are not part of the testing phase will not be able to opt in to the service before mid-June, the document states. However, they can start preparing for the launch of the service now by checking that they have the necessary technology in place and undertaking video consulting skills training, according to the document.
The video consultation service can be used to reduce exposure to COVID-19 by “enabling both patients and clinicians to consult remotely”, Ms Morrison outlined. The service also aims to improve “access to care for patients who find it difficult” to come to the pharmacy in person.
Ms Morrison told C+ D today (June 1) that “the Near Me technology has the potential to really transform how patients and pharmacies interact”. The service will be “especially helpful while some restriction are in place due to the pandemic, but longer term it will also have significant benefits,” she said.
“For example, patients may also find it more convenient to have a Near Me video consultation if they have transport difficulties or if they find it difficult to leave home, work or school to go to the pharmacy. Another potential advantage for pharmacists is that Near Me can enable remote working, for example for pharmacists in the shielding groups.”
The Near Me service is already in use in primary and secondary care, as well as within “some community teams” in Scotland. This includes pharmacists working in GP practices and hospitals.
“Improve access to pharmaceutical care services”
CPS said the aim of the testing phase is to understand the challenges of using Near Me in community pharmacy. This includes assessing the types of services that can be delivered effectively through Near Me; how to manage video consultations alongside pharmacy teams’ existing workload; patient response to the service; and any opportunities for development.
CPS said last week (May 27) that the implementation of the service had been expedited due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It added that local pharmacy networks will work with health boards to share learning and “move at pace” to support the wider rollout.
CPS director of operations Matt Barclay told C+ last week (May 29) that “CPS realises that at this time…new innovations will have to be trialled and rolled out at a pace and scale not previously considered”. This is being done in order to “improve access to pharmaceutical care services,” he said, adding that “NHS Near Me has been used in other areas of the NHS”.
“Exploring how this fits into community pharmacy service delivery is necessary and we will work with our members, the Scottish government and NHS Scotland…to support appropriate use of this technology,” he said.