More than half of hospital trusts in England are referring at least 1.5% of patients to community pharmacies through the Discharge Medicines Service (DMS), the government has said.
A report detailing the government’s response to the House of Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee’s ‘Evaluation of Government’s commitments in the area of the pharmacy in England’, published on 18 October 2023, said: “Data from 2022–23 CQUIN [Commissioning for Quality and Innovation framework] shows that 52% of acute trusts referred more than the upper threshold (1.5%).”
In March 2022, NHS England announced plans to incentivise trusts to refer between 0.5% and 1.5% of all patients through the DMS during 2022/2023.
These targets formed part of its CQUIN framework, which makes a proportion of NHS trust income conditional on meeting targets.
The DMS, which launched in February 2021, enables NHS trusts to refer patients to community pharmacy after hospital discharge, so that pharmacy staff can check that any medicines awaiting collection are still appropriate.
However, the report added that the government’s data “shows wide variability in referral rates across the country”.
“The factors behind this variability will be varied but it is clear that those areas that engaged early with the programme are currently performing best,” it said.
“We also acknowledge the challenges reported regarding the IT systems. We have sought to address these.”
In March 2022, The Pharmaceutical Journal revealed that NHS England had given hospital trusts £1.2m to improve computer systems used to refer patients to community pharmacies through the DMS.
The government’s response came after the House of Commons Health and Social Care Select Committee’s report found in July 2023 that the government had made ‘inadequate’ progress on some of its commitments relating to pharmacy.
These included commitments to eliminate paper prescribing in hospitals; optimise NHS aseptic services; and review the balance of funding between dispensing and other services in community pharmacy.
However, in the government’s response, it rejected the finding that it had failed to meet a commitment to review the funding model for community pharmacy.
“NHS England has committed to an economic analysis of the sector. This analysis will look at the cost of providing NHS pharmaceutical services and will inform any future funding arrangements,” it said.