Patients calling NHS 111 with concerns about minor conditions will be offered an appointment at their local community pharmacy, the Government has announced.
A new NHS Community Pharmacist Consultation Service will initially only take referrals from NHS 111 but it could accept referrals from GPs and A&E departments if testing for these is successful.
The service – which was announced yesterday as part of the new five-year Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework – will take effect from October, replacing the NHS urgent medicine supply advanced service (NUMSAS) as well as the digital minor illness referral service (DMIRS).
Pharmacies that are ready to provide the service from 1 December will be given £900, while those signing up by 15 January 2020 will receive £600, according to the contract.
Following these ‘transitional payments’, contractors will receive £14 per completed consultation.
Referral to pharmacies from GP practices is already being piloted across some selected sites and, if successful, it could be rolled out nationally from April 2020.
Millions of appointments could be provided by community pharmacists as up to 6% of all GP consultations – which is up to 20 million GP appointments per year – could be carried out by a pharmacist, the Government said.
The DHSC told Healthcare Leader it doesn’t believe this service will increase pharmacists’ workload as their time will be freed up following the decommissioning of the medicines use review service, which will be replaced by structured medication reviews (SMRs) provided through GP networks.
Commenting on the new service, health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said that the five-year deal will allow patients to get help in the most appropriate setting.
He added: ‘Pharmacists are integral to community health and I want to move towards the French model, where they offer a wider range of services and play a stronger role in the community.
‘Every day more than a million people use our community pharmacies in England, and we want to support our incredible pharmacists to unlock their full potential, helping them offer more health advice and support more patients as part of our Long-Term Plan for the NHS.’
NHS England chief pharmaceutical officer Keith Ridge said that the deal provides pharmacists with ‘a more fulfilling career’.
He said: ‘Joining up primary care organisations ‒ GPs, pharmacists and community services ‒ for our patients is the foundation of the NHS Long-Term Plan and community pharmacies are an important part of these networks, where residents can get a range of health checks and advice as well as picking up their prescription, a service which will now be even safer and more efficient.’