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GPs must join pharmacy referral scheme by December to access winter cash

GPs must sign up to the community pharmacist consultation service (CPCS) before December to be eligible for the £250m winter access fund announced last week, NHS England has said.

NHS England’s action plan said systems must ‘support all practices, by December, to sign up to and make full use of general practice referrals to the community pharmacy consultation service for minor illnesses to divert demand and improve patient experience’.

It added: ‘Access to the fund by a particular practice is contingent on sign-up to the GP community pharmacist consultation service.’

According to NHS England, just 800 of around 6,000 GP practices in England are currently signed up to the scheme.

The document added: ‘Use of the CPCS can help alleviate pressure on GP appointments by harnessing the skills and knowledge of community pharmacists to treat a range of minor illnesses.

‘Using the service gives a patient a same-day appointment in a community pharmacy and helps improve patient experience, as well as directing demand to the most appropriate setting.’

NHS England will provide ‘support through a nationally-procured resource that will help practices use the new service’. it said.

All practices are ‘encouraged’ to sign up by 1 December 2021, it added.

The document reiterated that GPs are being incentivised to implement the scheme or ‘increase their current referral rate’ via the PCN investment and impact fund (IIF) from this month.

The RCGP had previously said there was a low uptake of the CPCS among practices.

Responding to a question at Health and Social Care Committee meeting in September, RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall said that pharmacies can help GPs cope with their high workload through the CPCS – for which he said he understood that ‘the uptake has not been great’.

NHS England has previously said that around 10% of online GP consultations could potentially be referred to pharmacies via the CPCS.

The service, which offers patients a consultation with a pharmacist for minor illnesses, has been taking referrals from NHS 111 since October 2019. It was extended to include referrals from GPs in November 2020, after a successful pilot.

Meanwhile, the document also said that pharmacists joining PCNs will automatically be trained to prescribe under the plans to improve access to GP services.

And it added that NHS England is piloting the supply of contraception by community pharmacies and will work with the Government to ‘consider how far and fast we can expand the role of our pharmacists in the supply of medication, as part of relieving workload on GPs’.

A version of this story was first published by Pulse’s sister title The Pharmacist


Douglas Callow 18 October, 2021 4:48 pm

how much does a pharmacist get for one of the CPCS encounter again ?

Bob Hodges 18 October, 2021 4:52 pm

They don’t get a massive amount to be honest. The real issue is the variation in skills and confidence between community pharmacists who do minor ailments, even ones who work at the same pharamcy.

Its a good idea in theory and I support it, but it isn’t something that will work just because you ‘believe’ in it (an echo of Brexit level wishful thinking). Realistically it needs formal support from local GPs and a recognised training standard. That takes money and YEARS of work.

Sarah Machale 18 October, 2021 5:38 pm

My understanding was that this scheme wouldn’t work as 1) A GP has to fill in a referral form and 2) patients won’t like being referred on from General Practice as they will feel that “my GP” has refused to see me.or just get sent back if they are deemed to need antibiotics
So just quicker for Gp to see them anyway.

More sensible to promote patients accessing the service directly from pharmacy. This would promote positive feedback loop.. MHSE need to understand that patients need to learn to be able to access care easily from other primary care sources without ANY GP referral as the sim is to reduce GP workload and not increase it.

Douglas Callow 18 October, 2021 5:38 pm

so what worries me is is it clear what each participating pharmacy would be able to manage independently in most cases as you pointed out


How to manage patients where the pharmacy think further clinical input is required.

What we cant have is urgent referrals (they need to go to UTC WIC or AED) being signposted back to GP

And non-urgent referrals coming back back from pharmacies being yet another system that allows some patients to jump the GP queue, like online consultations at a time when we are all full anyway !!