GP referrals to community pharmacy through the community pharmacy consultation service (CPCS) will roll out across England this autumn, Simon Dukes, chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has said.
Speaking at the PSNC’s Local Pharmaceutical Committee Conference 2020, which was held online on 16 September 2020, Dukes said that the success of the scheme “will be built on good relationships” between community pharmacy and general practice. It should also, he said, build a platform for longer-term relationships between the two professions.
A pilot of the service is currently running across parts of England.
At the same conference, Dukes said that this season’s flu vaccination service will be “more ambitious, more flexible and more unusual than ever before”. The numbers involved will, he said, be a “huge challenge”, requiring collaboration between general practice and community pharmacy. Dukes added that, for the first time, a “joint incentive scheme” has been established to help meet this challenge.
In his speech, Dukes also expressed concern for the future of community pharmacy, noting that the “personal and financial toll” of managing the COVID-19 pandemic had been “significant”, and that many contractors were “now contemplating their own survival”. This is, he said, “sad for them and desperate for their communities — and also, frankly, a disgrace. A disgrace that a key part of primary care in England is under threat when we are in a health crisis.”
The PSNC is currently negotiating with the government on extra funding. Dukes said it is pushing for advance payments “to be written off” against COVID-19 costs: “those already experienced, and those yet to come”. He added that the negotiator is also asking for an increase to community pharmacy contractual framework funding, noting that it “was not written with COVID in mind. The pandemic has changed patients’ view of community pharmacy, and how community pharmacy does business”
Earlier in the conference, Keith Ridge, chief pharmaceutical officer for England, told delegates that the community pharmacy response to the pandemic had been “of the highest order”. It had, he said, been an “incredibly difficult, overwhelming, challenging time for community pharmacy”, but the sector had demonstrated its “essential, clinical role in the NHS system” and in keeping patients supplied with medicines and healthcare advice.
Ridge asked all community pharmacy owners and leaders to ensure their staff were offered flu vaccinations. He also suggested that pharmacies sign up to the personal protective equipment portal “immediately, as an emergency supply route”, as part of remaining “vigilant and safe with regard to any second wave”.
A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Social Care said that community pharmacies “make an important contribution to the NHS, and have gone above and beyond in response to COVID-19 to serve their communities.
“During this unprecedented pandemic, £370 million has been made in advance payments to support pharmacies in maintaining medicine supplies and providing health advice, and we are engaging with the PSNC and sector on additional funding to meet the extra costs incurred as a result of COVID-19.”