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‘The CPCS has massive potential to help patients, GPs and pharmacies’

"There is more we can do to expand this great service"

The CPCS could make a huge difference to patients with minor ailments but more GP practices need to use the service, says Sadik Al-Hassan

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


A.S. Singh, Community pharmacist

You sir, are preaching to the wrong choir. 

Take everything you have said and repeat it to GPs. See the reaction from them and you'll understand how seriously they take CPCS (or not).

Concerned Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

We have helped patients and GPs for decades. GPs have long referred their minor ailments to us.
This scheme is all about increasing the "potentially valuable revenue stream", but at what price?

Our time is just as valuable as the surgery's time.

All the bureaucracy just means that we have less time to help more patients. We will end up spending all our time helping a few, just to fill the coffers. But overall our service to all patients will deteriorate.
What was wrong with the good old fashioned "ask your pharmacist" approach (other than the fact it isn't funded -but did still deliver some revenue if and when an OTC sale followed).

TC PA, Community pharmacist

With the supply service becoming less profitable and moving towards automation I suppose the idea is to create a revenue stream that can only be delivered through bricks and mortar pharmacies. If this doesn't fill the hole that losing MURs has created (which it won't at current referral rates) then pharmacies won't have many profitable USPs left 

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

Don't worry, the future is clinical services. I read it here in the C&D a few years ago. Sit tight, be patient.

N P, Community pharmacist

"Potential" but in reality it is a no show, as intended by the government. 

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