The Community Pharmacy Consultation Service (CPCS) could be exactly what community pharmacy and general practice need right now. The CPCS refers patients to pharmacies, saving appointments in GP practices and other healthcare settings, while adding a potentially valuable revenue stream into pharmacy.
The CPCS refers patients from very different sources, including NHS 111 and general practice. The NHS 111 referrals are still very small in number compared with the figures of patients with minor ailments a capable pharmacy team could deal with, but the route offers a great way of reducing inappropriate hospital referrals.
In the Bristol area, I believe about half of the GP surgeries are live with the CPCS. Some of the most engaged Well branches, like one in Hartcliffe Health Centre, are seeing an average of 1.5 referrals a day from surgeries – saving them around 40 appointments a month.
Thanks to the efforts of the local pharmaceutical committee and clinical commissioning group, in my area the CPCS can be combined with a suite of local patient group directions. These offer patients effective treatments for minor ailments, such as urinary tract infections, without having to attend a GP appointment. However, handling 40 CPCS consultations a month (claiming £14 each) would still only earn pharmacies the equivalent of around 20 completed medicine use reviews (£28 each).
Pharmacies around Bristol have some great stories about building relationships with local GP surgeries through the CPCS. But there is still more we can do to expand this great service. Typically, GP surgery staff might triage around 100 appointments per day. A nurse-led clinic held in the practice for minor ailments might see between six and 10 people per day. These figures give us an idea of the scope for the minor ailments support that community pharmacy could offer.
A good outcome of CPCS referrals from GP surgeries gives the practice staff more time and supports pharmacy as the first port of call for minor ailments. GP surgery teams and pharmacies are only at the beginning of what this service could achieve. In Bristol, many GP surgeries have yet to start on that journey. I believe the potential for this service in community pharmacy is massive, as it could help a huge number of patients, but we need to see a culture change in GP surgeries to support the service.
Sadik Al-Hassan is Well Pharmacy area manager, overseeing 12 branches in Bristol