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GPs must not send patients to pharmacy without proper referral, says NHS England

GPs must not ‘informally’ send patients to community pharmacies while prioritising Covid booster vaccinations, NHS England has said.

Instead, they must make a referral to the community pharmacist consultation service (CPCS) for the patient’s minor illness symptoms making them eligible for the service ‘via the locally agreed electronic referral route’.

NHS England said patients may otherwise not access the pharmacist care they need.

It comes as the BMA and RCGP told GPs they should decide what workload to postpone while accelerating the booster campaign

In an NHS GP bulletin sent on Monday, director for primary care Dr Nikki Kanani and director of community pharmacy Ali Sparke said: ‘We are aware that some GP practices are informally directing patients to community pharmacies in order to prioritise delivery of Covid booster vaccinations rather than make a referral to CPCS for the minor illness symptoms covered by the service.’

‘The CPCS provides direct access to a pharmacist clinical consultation and will enable the pharmacy team to prioritise the work of the pharmacist to be free to see the patient that day or at another appropriate time agreed directly with the patient.’

NHS England said it recognised it is a ‘very busy time’ for both pharmacists and GPs and it recognises ‘everyone is trying to do their very best for patients’.

But it said that informal referrals to the CPCS ‘may result in some patients not accessing the care they need and prevents pharmacy teams from identifying patients that need to directly speak to the pharmacist at this very busy time’.

The CPCS, 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.

GP practices had to sign up to the CPCS before December to be eligible for the £250m winter access fund.


Patrufini Duffy 22 December, 2021 2:48 pm

GPs must not understand what on earth they are doing, period. Until they hit the grave, and it all becomes crystal clear.

David Rossiter 22 December, 2021 5:02 pm

So, how come we don’t get the same courtesy?
It will be more work to refer than just sort them

paul cundy 22 December, 2021 6:06 pm

Dear All,
Just how mind boggling stupid are these people?
1) “You’ve got a cold, go and get something from teh pharmacy”.
Now becomes
2) “you’ve got a cold, just wait whilst I or my staff navigate an electronic referral system to send a message to the pharmacist who will have to download it, read it, and then flog you what they were going to flog you in scenario one above”.
Do any of them actually have any experience of day to day general practice?
Paul Cundy

Dr N 22 December, 2021 8:07 pm

NHSE reducing GP workload brilliance. Let’s undo years of educating people to go to the pharmacy for trivia not the GP

Slobber Dog 22 December, 2021 9:19 pm

The NHSE deluded edict factory rolls on.

Cameron Wilson 22 December, 2021 9:52 pm

They don’t trust the pharmacists to play the game, so money and their number crunching requirements trump putting extra work on the dogsbody! The sooner we get to a system where people have to pay for the service, even if reimbursement follows, the better!

Michael Mullineux 23 December, 2021 10:03 am

Even more staggeringly ignorant than usual.

Malcolm Kendrick 23 December, 2021 11:31 am

Here on the other hand, is the referral system from pharmacists to GP

‘Go see your GP’

Some" Bloke 23 December, 2021 11:43 am

and if we are advising patients on any change in their diet, then surely we also need to complete proper referral to supermarkets too

Darren Tymens 23 December, 2021 12:45 pm

More complete nonsense.
GPs essentially are now being told to triage referrals to pharmacy for very minor conditions?
The point of engaging pharmacy was to offload some of this work from an exhausted, depleted general practice workforce that no longer has capacity for its own core work because of two decades of disinvestment.
Does any one have confidence that the NHSE Primary Care Leadership Team actually knows what it is doing?

C P 24 December, 2021 6:47 am

I just don’t bother with this pharmacy referral nonsense. Utter junk.

Jonathan Heatley 24 December, 2021 8:18 am

beyond parody

Just Your Average Joe 25 December, 2021 4:54 pm

NHSE Primary Care Leadership Team – Please immediately resign and leave your ivory towers.

I usually tolerate the drivel that comes from the powers that think they know better, but the answer to this request is a clear FXXX XFF!

It is hard enough to deter patients coming with trivial complaints, without producing more work to redirect them, when in that time they can get proper help. You are meant to be reducing bureaucracy and workload – so quit now and go and work on the front line instead.

Valerie Jane Philip 26 December, 2021 6:18 pm

‘We are no longer prescribing……shower gels, dandruff shampoos and other meds the local prescribing quality demands……please buy these from pharmacy in future’ (gold star for saving nhs money in prescription costs and dispensing fees) becomes, ‘I need to complete a referral for you to get your …..’😬
What utter nonesense! I have no intention of doing this.
Come down to earth NHSE!

Kevlar Cardie 7 January, 2022 4:08 pm

Does indelible Sharpie on the forehead count ?