The introduction of a digital hospital-to-pharmacy referral service has been delayed by six weeks because of pressures that community pharmacy is currently facing, and it will now start on 15 February 2021.
The Discharge Medicines Service (DMS) was originally planned to launch in July 2020, as part of the new community pharmacy contract, but was put back because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In August 2020, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) said it expected the service to launch in January 2021, but the further delay followed “representations” from the negotiator recognising the current heavy workloads that community pharmacies were facing, and the time needed to prepare to provide a new service.
The service will allow hospitals to digitally notify community pharmacies when patients who have recently been discharged may need advice on taking new medicines, as well as any changes to their prescriptions.
Although the DMS will be an essential service under the contract, the PSNC said that NHS England and NHS Improvement will “initially adopt a light-touch approach to contractual assurance with regards to the service”.
The PSNC also said that pharmacies should be aware that not all hospital trusts will be ready to make referrals when the service starts.
Pharmacies will be paid a fee of £35 for providing the full DMS service, and they can claim staged payments if they are not able to complete the full process for a patient. They will also be given a one-off set-up fee of £400 to prepare for the service.
A contractor checklist for the DMS, published by the PSNC, tells pharmacy contractors to consider how they can offer a discussion with the discharged patient remotely, if the patient is unable to visit the pharmacy.