There are no plans to relax the requirement for patients to be referred from other parts of the NHS before they can access minor ailments services in pharmacies in England, NHS England & Improvement has said.
During a Q&A session at the Pharmacy Show last Sunday, NHSE&I head of pharmacy integration Anne Joshua (pictured) told Pharmacy Network News that patients “really value” the “unique” model used in the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service, insisting: “We are still committed that it is a referral in for CPCS.”
Ms Joshua’s comments came a few days after health secretary Sajid Javid said he was considering using Scotland’s Pharmacy First model – which allows patients to refer themselves into pharmacies without involving a GP – as a template for England.
The CPCS involves pharmacies receiving minor ailments queries and urgent medicine requests via NHS 111 and GP surgeries. Referral rates from GPs have been disappointingly low: Ms Joshua revealed on Sunday that by October 11 just 989 practices had made a referral.
“It could be so much bigger – we know that,” she said. Practices have been told they will only receive a portion of the recently announced £250m winter access fund if they sign up to using CPCS referral pathways by December 1.
Asked whether she saw any possible advantages in using an alternative model that is more pharmacist-led, Ms Joshua told PNN there were opportunities in the hypertension case-finding service and New Medicines Service, which she described as “completely pharmacy driven”.
She also mentioned a recently launched pilot allowing pharmacies to offer access to ongoing oral contraception, explaining that the NHS’s ultimate ambition is to allow pharmacies to start contraceptive care with new patients: “In terms of what pharmacy can do that’s initiated, contraception is the big one we’re trying to focus on.”