Most NHS 111 referrals for urgent repeat prescriptions are supplied by pharmacy

NHS England states that 54% of referrals for urgent repeat medication from NHS 111 were directed to pharmacies in November 2018, compared with 31% being referred to GP out of hours services.

Prescription charges in England are set to increase from £8.80 to £9 as of 1 April 2019, the government has announced.

More than half of NHS 111 referrals for urgent repeat prescription medications now send patients to pharmacies providing an NHS Urgent Medicine Supply Advanced Supply Service (NUMSAS), figures show.

The numbers come from an NHS England letter sent to NUMSAS providers on 31 January 2019, which states that 54% “of total referrals for urgent repeat medication” from NHS 111 were directed to NUMSAS providers in November 2018, compared with 31% being referred to GP out of hours services.

This represents a continued increase in the proportion of referrals directed to NUMSAS since June 2018 when 47% of requests for urgent repeat medications were directed to a pharmacy providing the service.

Meanwhile, the percentage of referrals sent to GP out of hours services has declined, falling by 9% between June 2018 and November 2018.

NUMSAS was first launched as a pilot in December 2016 using money from the Pharmacy Integration Fund.

More than 4,170 community pharmacies have registered for NUMSAS as of 28 January 2019, with NHS 111 referring to NUMSAS a total of 196,588 times between December 2016 and November 2018, the letter said.

During that time, pharmacists are reported as supplying 160,807 items of medication, while 40,268 items were recorded as “no supply”.

The letter added that ventolin, salbutamol, sertraline and citalopram were the most frequently requested items.

The Pharmaceutical Journal revealed in July 2018 that, overall, NHS 111 referrals to pharmacy had more than doubled since 2015 from fewer than 1 in 100 callers to 2.5% of callers in April 2018.

The NUMSAS pilot was due to end in March 2018 but, in November 2017, NHS England announced that the scheme would be extended for six months, until September 2018. It has since been extended again to run until the end of March 2019.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, February 2019;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2019.20206197