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New Pharmacy First IT to ‘simplify’ referrals from GPs being rolled out

New Pharmacy First IT to ‘simplify’ referrals from GPs being rolled out

A new IT functionality to ‘simplify’ referrals from GP practices to community pharmacies is currently being rolled out, NHS England has said.

IT system suppliers have started rolling out a new feature allowing Pharmacy First referrals from practices using EMIS Web Local Services or PharmRefer to go into the workflows in pharmacy clinical systems.

GP practices started referring patients to community pharmacies for seven common conditions – including sore throats, uncomplicated UTIs and ear infections – as the scheme launched at the end of January.

The new functionality means that referrals from practices will now be received into the same workflow as referrals from NHS 111.

However, practices that do not use EMIS Web Local Services or PharmRefer will continue to refer using NHSmail.

In an update, NHS England said that this is ‘an important first step’ to ‘streamline’ referrals, ‘reduce burden’ and ‘improve patient safety’ by ‘simplifying’ the process.

‘General practice teams should continue to use existing triage processes, check pharmacy opening hours and provide usual safety-netting advice to patients who are referred to Pharmacy First,’ it added.  

The new functionality is being rolled out as part of the new Booking and Referrals Standard (BaRS), setting rules for digitally transferring a referral between healthcare services.

According to NHS England, TPP is also planning to introduce the new standard, replacing NHSmail referrals to Pharmacy First.

As part of the service, community pharmacy IT systems will automatically send details of patient consultations to general practice clinical IT systems via GP Connect, which is currently undergoing a phased roll-out.

So far, two IT suppliers, Cegedim and Positive Solutions Hx Consult, have fully rolled out updates to allow pharmacies to send structured records of Pharmacy First consultations to GP practices and two more, EMIS Pinnacle PharmOutcomes and Sonar, are currently working towards rollout.

Pulse has asked NHS England when the functionality is expected to be fully operational but the commissioner is yet to respond.

As the scheme launched a number of GPs were sceptical and raised concerns, including some pharmacies reportedly directing patients back to general practice due to capacity issues or due to lacking necessary skills or equipment.

Following the scheme’s announcement, the DAUK urged the Government to urgently review why pharmacies are paid ‘more than double’ per consultation compared with GPs.

And GPs told Pulse they believed that the Pharmacy First money would be better off spent in general practice.