Community pharmacies in South Tyneside, North East England, stand to receive over £100,000 through a scheme that will refer patients to community pharmacists from their local GP surgery.
The pilot scheme, known as GP2Pharmacy, gives patients the option to see a pharmacist the same or following day when they call their local practice to book an appointment with their GP.
So far, 10 pharmacies have joined the scheme so far, with another 30 expected to sign up by September 2019. Plans for a similar national pilot were announced in the ‘NHS Long-Term Plan’ in January 2019.
Under the GP2Pharmacy initiative, patients calling their GP surgery are assessed by a receptionist and, depending on their symptoms, booked into a fixed appointment time at a pharmacy of their choice.
Patients can be referred to a pharmacist if they have a condition that falls under the locally commissioned minor ailment scheme, including coughs, colds and mild skin conditions, such as eczema or psoriasis. Patients are also able to book an appointment with a pharmacist for regular check-ups, such as for patients taking oral contraceptives.
Louise Lydon, secretary of the Gateshead and South Tyneside Local Pharmaceutical Committee (LPC), told The Pharmaceutical Journal that “the reception staff have been trained to triage in the same way that NHS 111 does” to decide whether a patient can be seen by a pharmacist rather than a GP.
She added that patients will still be able to see their GP if they wish to.
Appointments are currently arranged over the phone between reception staff in the practice and pharmacy staff.
But Lydon, who is also a pharmacist participating in the scheme at Edinburgh Road Pharmacy, said appointments will soon be made online, “through pharmacists getting access to the EMIS [medical information sharing] package so that [GP receptionists] can see the pharmacists’ availability”.
According to a guide published by the Gateshead and South Tyneside LPC, the scheme pays pharmacy contractors £13 per consultation with 8,000 pharmacy appointments available to the end of September 2019 — amounting to a potential cash injection worth £104,000 for the participating pharmacies.
The scheme is currently running in 10 practices and 16 community pharmacies. Approximately 30 more pharmacies are expected to join, on a voluntary basis, by September 2019.
Lydon said local pharmacists are “delighted with the service”, which is financed through South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG)’s primary care transformation fund.
While GP2Pharmacy launched on 27 November 2018, the ‘NHS Long-Term Plan’ hinted when it was published on 7 January 2019 that clinical commissioning groups would develop “pharmacy connection schemes for patients who don’t need primary medical services”.
Keith Ridge, chief pharmaceutical officer for England, later clarified to The Pharmaceutical Journal
on Twitter that the schemes refer to “a pilot of referral direct from GP practices to community pharmacies”.
NHS England added that these schemes would be piloted across England later in 2019.
Jo Farey, head of commissioning at NHS South Tyneside CCG, said: “GPs will always be there when we need them, but for certain conditions, a booked appointment with a qualified pharmacist is quick, easy and helps to ease the pressure on busy doctors.
“This is not for everyone, but it’s a great option for patients who don’t need a GP’s input at that moment.”