The new community pharmacist consultation service (CPCS) has already proved effective during its short ten weeks of operation, with more than 114,000 patients having been referred to pharmacists through the new scheme.

    According to data from the Department of Health and Social Care, published in Pharmaceutical Journal, NHS 111 has referred 114,275 people since it launched on October 29th 2019.

    This is despite just 10,610 pharmacists having signed up to the programme, which enables patients who call NHS 111 to be referred for minor illness assessment, as well as medicines they require immediately.

    The CPCS initiative is aimed at reducing the number of people being transferred for a GP appointment, out of hours GP or an urgent referral, relieving pressure on NHS services.

    According to the NHS, this service will integrate community pharmacies into the urgent care system; allow patients to access care easily and conveniently; limit demand on other urgent care services; make people more aware of the role of the pharmacy as the ‘first port of call’ for low acuity conditions and medical advice, and manage patient requests for the urgent supply of medicines and appliances.

    Pharmacists are remunerated for the service, being paid £14 for each consultation, meaning they are benefiting from the scheme, as well as the NHS’ urgent care facilities.

    Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock has shown his satisfaction that the scheme has proved successful so far, saying: “Thousands of patients receiving same-day advice from highly skilled pharmacists is exactly what we need.”

    He added: “Community pharmacy is an integral and trusted part of the NHS and we want every patient with a minor illness to think ‘pharmacy first’.”

    Speaking with the publication, secretary of the North East London Local Pharmaceutical Committee Hemant Patel said the programme needs to be better promoted.

    While the north-west of England has made the most of the system, with NHS 111 referring 20,972 people in the region during the two-month period, the same cannot be said for the south-west. Here, just 8,037 patients were referred to community pharmacists for their ailments.

    Mr Patel stated: “It is about awareness and the general population is not aware of this service. Unless the service is promoted, then the number of consultations is likely to remain very low.”

    Not all pharmacists can provide the service, however, as they must fulfil certain requirements first. These include having a consultation room clearly designated for confidential appointments that cannot be overheard by other people, and is distinct from the public areas of the pharmacy.

    The room also requires IT equipment to enable pharmacists to access records of the consultations through the CPCS system. Furthermore, pharmacists also need to have an up-to-date understanding of the Human Medicines Regulations in relation to the emergency supply of Prescription Only Medicines; make appropriate referrals to other NHS services; and be able to communicate the services and the care plan to the patients clearly, advising them on their condition.

    What’s more, the pharmacy contractor needs to make sure any employees who are involved in the service are trained on how it operates. In particular, this refers to locum pharmacists, so they understand how to provide the service to patients.

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