Remote consultations unsuitable for some pharmacy patients, warns NHSE&I
NHS England and Improvement has outlined situations where pharmacy teams should not use remote consultations in guidance released this month.
Insisting it wanted to "continue to support" community pharmacies’ use of remote and video consultations – which have seen a sharp rise in uptake by primary care professionals during the pandemic – NHSE&I said pharmacies nonetheless need to be aware of occasions when those technologies are unsuitable.
It laid out three situations when remote consultations should not be used: when patients have “potentially serious, high-risk conditions” that could require a physical examination; when patients have co-morbidities or anxieties that might impede their ability to participate in remote consultations; and when patients have disabilities.
NHSE&I said deaf patients might be able to lip read what is being said during a virtual consultation but stressed pharmacy teams should make sure all patients are free to choose which service is best suited for them.
The guidance said consultations as part of the new medicine service and community pharmacist consultation service can be conducted remotely provided the patient has given their consent.
It also said locally commissioned services such as sexual health and smoking cessation could be carried out remotely “depending on the view of the local commissioner and service delivery organisations.”
NHSE&I revealed a pilot on virtual consultations carried out by pharmacy team members in the North of England found they were time-consuming to set up and deliver compared with telephone conversations but were beneficial to patients once established.
They also found some patients did not have access to the equipment to make a virtual consultation possible and some were not comfortable using a smartphone, desktop computer or tablet device.
The guidance was developed with the support of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, PSNC, Community Pharmacy IT Group, National Pharmacy Association, Company Chemists’ Association and the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies.