All community pharmacies in Scotland will have access to video consultation technology by the middle of June 2020, the government has said.
In a letter dated 5 June 2020, Rose Marie Parr, chief pharmaceutical officer for Scotland, said that 44 community pharmacies across Scotland are trialling the NHS Near Me service over the first two weeks of June.
The service will be tested in pharmacies in NHS Highland, NHS Forth Valley, NHS Tayside and NHS Dumfries and Galloway, and they follow initial trials in two community pharmacies which ran in May 2020.
Pharmacy-specific guidance, including appropriate clinical use of the platform as well as technical support, is currently in development. Clare Morrison, national lead for NHS Near Me, told The Pharmaceutical Journal on 21 May 2020 that the service “is a consulting tool and it will be up to pharmacists to decide when it is clinically appropriate to use”.
Jonathan Burton, a community pharmacist and chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society Scottish Pharmacy Board, said the service was “a really important communication tool to be rolled out across community pharmacies in Scotland”, noting that pharmacists working in hospital and general practice setting are also able to use it.
Burton’s pharmacy was one of the first locations to test the service. “It’s early days, but I am finding it’s well received by patients, who appreciate the face to face interaction of a video consultation.
“I think going forward we will certainly have a mixed model of communication with patients, via telephone, video and — where appropriate — in person, face-to-face consultations. It’s important patients have choice, and also that pharmacists and their teams have the ability to use this mix of methods to manage their workload effectively.”
The Scottish government, the letter said, is working with Community Pharmacy Scotland and health boards to support the rollout of the service, and it will be made available to all community pharmacies in Scotland from mid-June 2020.
NHS Near Me is a video consultation service which has, Parr’s letter said, seen a marked increase in use across the NHS since the outbreak of COVID-19. The tests are intended to explore the types of pharmacy services that can be delivered effectively; how the technology fits alongside current workload and workflow; and how patients feel about the video platform.
The Welsh government has also said it will pilot the use of video consultation software in community pharmacies, although as yet no date has been set.