Pharmacy negotiators have asked contractors to audit their patient contacts over concerns about “improper referrals” from general practice and NHS 111.
The second pharmacy advice audit, launched by the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC), will run for one day during the week of 25 January 2021.
The audit aims to assess how much unpaid advice is being provided to patients by pharmacy staff, following reports that general practice teams are referring patients to pharmacies for consultations informally, rather than via the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS).
NHS 111 began referring patients to community pharmacies via the CPCS in October 2019, with general practices able to refer patients to community pharmacy from November 2020.
The first audit carried out by the PSNC, in the summer of 2020, found that pharmacies were providing on average 15 unpaid consultations with patients each day. It found that pharmacy staff spent an average of around 75 minutes per day providing these consultations.
Simon Dukes, chief executive of the PSNC, told The Pharmaceutical Journal that community pharmacy is “saving general practice, and therefore the NHS, huge amounts of time and money”.
“I believe many people are not just walking in to see a pharmacist off the street, but actually being improperly referred, either via [NHS] 111 or general practice, who in their busyness themselves are saying, ‘Why don’t you go and see your local pharmacist?’ — and, as a result of that improper referral … the pharmacy is not being remunerated,” he said.
Dukes added that the findings will be considered “in preparation for discussions on year three of the contractual framework”.
“We want to see whether improper referrals from general practice are an issue, in which case we want to see, therefore, how we can help tackle that with our NHS colleagues,” he said
The Pharmaceutical Journal’s salary and job satisfaction survey for 2020 found that almost two thirds (64%) of pharmacists said they had worked increased hours during the pandemic, and only half reported that they had been paid for working this overtime.