The Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS) needs at least 4,000 pharmacies to register by its go-live date of 29 October 2019 or referrals will “revert back” to general practice, a senior NHS England official has warned.
Speaking at The Pharmacy Show in Birmingham on 6 October 2019, Anne Joshua, head of pharmacy integration at NHS England and NHS Improvement, said the figure was based on the number of pharmacies currently signed up to offer the NHS urgent medicines supply advanced service (NUMSAS).
On 2 October 2019, pharmacy minister Jo Churchill told MPs at a debate on the role of community pharmacies that 2,000 pharmacies had registered for the service so far.
“There are 4,000 pharmacies signed up to NUMSAS across England so if we don’t get at least that number of pharmacies signed up to the new NHS CPCS, there is a risk,” Joshua said, adding that NHS 111 “has got really used to the idea that we can send patients to pharmacies directly to access the NUMSAS”.
Without enough pharmacies offering the CPCS — which combines both the NUMSAS and the digital minor illness referral service (DMIRS) from 29 October 2019 — “that route will actually start reverting back to sending [patients] to GP out-of-hours services,” she continued.
NHS England figures show 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.
Joshua added that reverting back to GP out-of-hours referrals would put “a massive pressure on urgent care system” as “Halloween, 5 November [and] Brexit” occur around the time of the CPCS’s launch.
Joshua previously said on 25 September 2019 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.
According to the latest figures from NHS England, the number of referrals to NUMSAS more than doubled over the course of a year from 66,191 referrals between December 2016 and January 2018 to 178,905 referrals between February 2018 and February 2019.