More than 1,000 pharmacies have registered to offer the ‘community pharmacy consultation service’ (CPCS) so far, the pharmacy minister has said.
Speaking at the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee’s national conference for Local Pharmacy Committees held in London on 25 September 2019, Jo Churchill said the number of registrations since the service opened on 2 September 2019 was a “great start”.
The CPCS, which combines the digital minor illness referral service (DMIRS) and the NHS urgent medicines supply advanced service, is due to launch on 29 October 2019 with pharmacies to receive £14 per consultation.
Pharmacies have also been promised £900 each if they sign up before 1 December 2019.
Churchill said the service “will deliver faster access to a clinical consultation for patients with minor illnesses whilst helping reduce pressure elsewhere in the system”.
Speaking at the same event, Anne Joshua, head of pharmacy integration at NHS England, told delegates that between December 2018 and August 2019, NHS 111 referred 15,673 calls to community pharmacy through DMIRS of which 51% (8,052) were completed in the pharmacy.
Joshua added that an additional 811 patients were not seen in pharmacy and were instead consulted over the phone.
NHS England first piloted DMIRS in the North East of England in December 2017, with pharmacies in the East Midlands, London and Devon following in September and October 2018.
Joshua said that the four pilot sites saw DMIRS offered by a total of 1,966 pharmacies, which were paid £14 for each DMIRS consultation.
Joshua said DMIRS referrals “are completed by that pharmacist in the pharmacy, either just by giving advice or maybe they supply a medicine, or through a sale or it might be through referring them into a minor illness scheme or it might be that they provide some written information through some leaflet”.
Of the completed referrals, 1,237 were escalated, she said, as “quite rightly, that pharmacist may decide actually we really do need that GP assessment”.
She said that of the 15,673 patients referred by NHS 111 call handlers, 1,814 were classified as “in-progress” or with an unknown outcome at the time the data snapshot was taken.
Joshua added that NHS England is expected to launch a second wave of DMIRS pilots, with patients referred to community pharmacy from general practice, later in autumn 2019.
NHS England launched the first wave of GP DMIRS pilots in summer 2019 in Cheshire and Merseyside, Lancashire and South Cumbria, Cumbria and the North East, Greater Manchester, West Yorkshire and Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire.
According to the service specifications listed on the NHS Business Services Authority website, further pilots began in Devon, South Wessex, West Midlands, South West and Midlands and East in August and September 2019.