Keith Ridge, chief pharmaceutical officer for England, has said it would be “difficult to justify” not renewing the NHS Urgent Medicine Supply Advanced Service (NUMSAS) in community pharmacies as it has become an important part of the services they offer patients.
A pilot of the service — which forwards calls to NHS 111 concerning the urgent supply of medicines to community pharmacies signed up to the scheme — was extended for six months in November 2017 and will run until September 2018.
The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) recently said the pilot, which was developed with money from the Pharmacy Integration Fund, was “likely” to be extended. In comments given to The
Pharmaceutical Journal, Ridge went even further, suggesting that the service could be made permanent in the future.
Ridge said that the renewal of the service had been discussed and was “going through a process” at NHS England: “It’s proving to be successful, and my view is we can’t do without it, so let’s see what happens in terms of actually signing on the dotted line.”
He added: “I am hopeful and I think, at minimum, it would be an extension of the pilot in terms of running it longer.
“Obviously, the Department [of Health and Social Care] needs to consider where it is with the contractual framework negotiations, but at the same time we have got to ensure that patients still benefit from what is obviously a successful service.
“I would find it difficult to justify taking it away when it’s pretty obvious that it’s going to become an important part of what community pharmacy does.”
An interim evaluation by NHS England in January 2018 found that around one in four patients would have gone without their medicine if a pharmacist had not supplied it.
In its July 2018 summary report for local pharmaceutical committees (LPCs) and contractors, the PSNC said the long-term commissioning of the service may be a subject that could become part of the forthcoming negotiations on a new community pharmacy contract.
It has discussed potential improvements to the scheme with community pharmacy contractors and LPCs, and has drawn up a list that could be discussed with NHS England. These include an IT solution for pharmacies providing the service, which would allow digital referrals to be made from NHS 111; the service being provided on a walk-in basis; and an extension of the service to include referrals from other areas of the health service, such as hospital emergency departments.
Pharmacists and LPCs told the PSNC they felt that NHS 111 could streamline the NUMSAS process, with call-handlers being given training on how to make referrals and giving a verbal explanation to patients of how the service works.