Community pharmacists in Scotland have begun trialling the ‘NHS Near Me’ video consultation service, and talks have taken place with the Scottish government on how the system could be deployed across community pharmacy.
Video consultations have been held by GPs for some time, and have already proven useful in remote and rural areas of Scotland. More recently, video consultations have been used by pharmacists in GP practices and in hospital settings; but, to date, they have not been held in urban community pharmacies.
Clare Morrison, national lead for NHS Near Me, told The Pharmaceutical Journal that two community pharmacies began initial testing of the service in mid-May 2020, “and that will now be extended to additional pharmacies.
“The aim is to test and develop guidance so that [the service] can be offered to all pharmacies across Scotland”.
Morrison added that it is anticipated that this “will become part of the new normal way in which consultations are provided across health and care services in NHS Scotland. This absolutely includes pharmacy.
“NHS Near Me is a consulting tool, and it will be up to pharmacists to decide when it is clinically appropriate to use”.
In a video update published on 15 May 2020, Harry McQuillan, chief executive of Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS), said CPS was in discussion with the Scottish government on how NHS Near Me could be deployed in community pharmacy.
Jonathon Burton, chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) Scottish Pharmacy Board and a community pharmacist based in Stirling, Scotland, is one of the pharmacists testing the new service. Burton said video consultations had “great potential to help develop the way community pharmacists help and advise patients”, allowing for “a greater level of face-to-face interaction while physical distancing is in place during the COVID-19 pandemic”.
He added that video consultations give pharmacists “the ability to interact more effectively with patients who may struggle to attend the pharmacy in person during normal times — perhaps [as a result of] living in a remote area, disability or caring responsibilities.”
Burton said that video consultations could also “allow pharmacists to plan their time and workflow better, making use of planned appointment times and also allowing for acute consultations where appropriate”.
NHS Near Me is not the first video consultation service used by pharmacists. Pharmacy Anywhere, developed by Morrison and her team, was used in Scotland between January 2017 and April 2018.