NHS 111 has seen a 6% drop in referrals to GP surgeries since the community pharmacist consultation service (CPCS) was launched in October 2019, according to Anne Joshua, head of pharmacy integration at NHS England and NHS Improvement.
Referrals to pharmacy have increased by 10% in this time, she added in a blog published on the NHS England website. NHS 111 had previously referred patients to community pharmacies via the NHS urgent medicines supply advanced service (NUMSAS) and the digital minor illness referral service (DMIRS).
“Since the end of October 2019, over 200,000 people have benefited from quick treatment for a range of conditions including: coughs and sore throats, colds and flu, skin and eye problems, vomiting, diarrhoea, headache and back pain,” Joshua wrote.
She added that 93% of pharmacies in England were now signed up to provide the service and that feedback from pharmacists had been “positive”, highlighting the increased convenience for patients, integration with other elements of urgent care and future expansion of the service.
Alastair Buxton, director of NHS services at the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, said there had long been a need for the NHS to update its referral pathways to better integrate the sector.
“The CPCS has brought that much needed change and these fantastic figures are now helping to prove that point,” he said.
“This has only been possible because of the phenomenal response of community pharmacists – more than 10,000 pharmacies signed up to offer the CPCS within its first few months.”
Referrals from NHS 111 online and GP surgeries are currently being piloted, with some practices sending up to four patients a day to pharmacies. Joshua said that NHS England was in the process of evaluating and learning from the 74 general practices involved.
The CPCS is an amalgamation of the NUMSAS and DMIRS, and was introduced as part of the ‘Community pharmacy contractual framework for 2019/2020 to 2023/2024’, which was announced in July 2019.
It was intended to relieve pressure on other parts of the NHS and to replace some of the funding for community pharmacies that had been removed from the contract by cutting medicines use reviews and establishment payments.