Pharmacists complete 90% of consultations referred by GPs under national pilot, says NHS England

The proportion of pharmacy consultations completed after referral from general practice under the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service pilot has exceeded the proportion completed in pharmacies after referral from NHS 111.

Patient-centred consultation

Pharmacies across five pilot sites have completed nine in ten patient consultations referred to them by GPs through the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS), NHS England has said.

The 90% completion rate — based on data collected before the COVID-19 pandemic — exceeds that of referrals from NHS 111 to community pharmacy under the same service.

The CPCS launched as an NHS 111 referral service on 29 October 2019 as part of the community pharmacy contractual framework, before expanding to include minor illness referrals from GPs in five pilot areas in June 2019.

The five pilot areas include Cheshire and Merseyside; Lancashire and South Cumbria; North East and North Cumbria; Greater Manchester and Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucester. Further pilot sites were added in September 2019 as part of a ‘second phase’.

Speaking at the Clinical Pharmacy Congress on 23 September 2020, Anne Joshua, head of pharmacy integration at NHS England, said 91 GP practices are currently referring to 153 community pharmacies in these areas, with pharmacists “clearly demonstrating that they are able to complete the consultations in 90% of cases”.

She said this compares to an 88% completion rate for the NHS 111 referral pathway.

“Our third phase is to spread those pilots and experiences from those pilots to other areas, ultimately in response to the COVID pandemic,” Joshua said, adding that NHS England is also planning to “incorporate online triage as part of that journey into CPCS from general practice”.

Joshua added that “from the pre-COVID experience, because that’s what we’ve focused our main evaluation on so far, the majority of patients have attended the pharmacy after referral”.

A slideshow accompanying her presentation showed that 86% of patients attended the pharmacy after a GP referral, whereas only 75% of patients attended the pharmacy after a referral from NHS 111 for minor illness.

The Pharmaceutical Journal reported in February 2020 that GPs in Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire were sending up to four patients per day to community pharmacies, earning them up to £1,680 per month for participating in the pilot.

Joshua previously presented data in September 2019, which revealed that pharmacies had only closed 51% of minor illness referrals from NHS 111 between December 2018 and August 2019.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ October 2020, Vol 305, No 7942;305(7942):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2020.20208386

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