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Just one pharmacy IT supplier has enabled integrated Pharmacy First GP updates

Just one pharmacy IT supplier has enabled integrated Pharmacy First GP updates

Just one IT provider has as yet rolled out updates to allow pharmacies to send structured records of Pharmacy First consultations to GPs, Pulse’s sister title The Pharmacist understands.

Cegedim Rx was understood to be the only supplier to have gone live with GP Connect’s Update Record integration so far, despite Pharmacy First being launched almost three months ago.

Meanwhile, Community Pharmacy England (CPE) said earlier this month that three other suppliers – EMIS Pinnacle PharmOutcomesPositive Solutions HxConsult and Sonar – were ‘currently finalising work ahead of rollout of Update Record’.

The GP Connect functionality which enables pharmacists to add to GP records with ‘one click’ was originally due to be live in time for the Pharmacy First launch on 31 January, but was delayed multiple times.

During this time, GPs have received updates on consultations via NHS mail or hard copy, which they have had to manually add to patient records.

Leanne Hackett, senior product lead for Cegedim Rx, told The Pharmacist that the supplier had gone live with the system this month.

‘Our Pharmacy Services platform now enables every user who completes a Pharmacy First, Contraception or Hypertension Case-Finding service to also update the patient’s GP record via GP Connect,’ she added.

She described the update as ‘another important step towards community pharmacy working in closer collaboration with primary care – enabling more joined up and informed decision making to support better patient outcomes, while saving clinical time through automation and integration with existing systems’.

‘It is also recognition of pharmacy’s clinical skill set and the vital role it plays in providing patients with an accessible, front door to care,’ Ms Hackett added.

‘We’re committed to continuing to work closely with the NHS to deliver the next phase of the GP Connect integration which will allow our community pharmacy customers to access more easily the GP patient care record, surfacing additional clinical details to further inform decision making in pharmacy and improve patient outcomes,’ she said.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for EMIS told The Pharmacist that it was ‘working closely with NHS England on the GP Update record’ and would notify users when rollout commences.

‘Most importantly, we have seen a progressive increase in the number of Pharmacy First referrals each month of 2024,’ the spokesperson added.

The GP update record functionality was originally planned to be launched at the same time that the Pharmacy First service launched, but the start date was delayed ‘to allow additional technical work and testing by suppliers and NHS England’, CPE said on its website.

Until they receive the update, pharmacies using other suppliers must continue to use NHSmail to send records of Pharmacy First consultations to GP practices.

Community Pharmacy England’s IT policy manager, Dan Ah-Thion, has said that CPE welcomes the development of the system updates, which will replace the previous ‘burdensome process’.

He added: ‘IT suppliers and NHS England must carefully monitor the technology during the early testing and rollout stages to check that it works as required. IT suppliers must also communicate to their users as they roll this out.’

But community pharmacist Sukhi Basra expressed frustration that not all suppliers were providing the same level of service.

She told The Pharmacist that because pharmacies use private suppliers for their IT systems, they are ‘tied into a contract they cannot leave’.

She said that using the current process was ‘slow and tedious’ but was working ‘if surgeries remember to implement’.

Ms Basra also flagged issues around GP referrals to Pharmacy First that meant pharmacies may miss out on payments for the service.

She said that when it comes to referring patients to pharmacies for the service, ‘many [GP surgeries] just send patients verbally’, rather than making a formal referral.

She said this was ‘not helpful’ as the pharmacy would then be ‘forced to send [the patient] back for an actual referral in order to implement the service’.

Verbal referrals, or patient walk-ins, mean that pharmacies are only paid for their consultation if the patient passes the ‘gateway point’ on Pharmacy First clinical pathways, while pharmacies are paid for each referral made from a GP.

Nick Hunter, chief officer of Community Pharmacy Nottinghamshire, told The Pharmacist this month that it was disappointing to see ‘the lack of referrals from practices compared to “walk-ins”, especially when you consider the main clinical, patient experience and safety benefits if practices formally refer rather than just signpost’.

A recent survey conducted by the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp) also highlighted frustration with a lack of referrals from GP practices, and concern over whether pharmacies would be able to meet increased minimum consultation numbers from May.

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