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CPCS: Pharmacists need more scope to prescribe for minor ailments


By Isabel Shaw

18 Nov 2021

The role of community pharmacists should be expanded to include the supply of certain prescription-only medicines if the community pharmacy consultation service (CPCS) is to be successful, health bodies have recommended. 

This conclusion comes alongside a list of recommendations drawn up by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) after they jointly held a workshop in September with commissioners, pharmacists and GPs on how to maximise the potential of the GP CPCS.  

In a report, published today (18 November), RPS and RCGP said there was a ‘frustration’ amongst GPs, pharmacists and patients that pharmacists were not always able to ‘close’ an episode of care as they could not always supply a medicine the patient needed.  

In this instance, a pharmacist would have to refer the patient back to general practice for an appointment with a prescriber for a prescription. 

This extra step was said to produce more work for GPs, while also taking up additional appointment slots and delaying patient care.  

It was felt by the workshop attendees that community pharmacists were ‘more than capable of completing the episode of care and supplying a medicine,’ the report said. 

The attendees also said that while the CPCS could be ‘extremely helpful’, a more advanced service, which included the supply or prescribing of POMs by community pharmacists for minor ailments, would help general practice and patients even further.  

RPS and RCGP have called on the Government and NHS organisations to ‘expand the role of community pharmacists in the management of minor illness to include the supply of certain POM through national PGDs and the use of Pharmacist Independent Prescribers in Community Pharmacies’. 

Alongside this, the bodies have jointly recommended that the referral mechanism for CPCS be improved by ‘additional investment in software technology’ so that it is more streamlined and ‘easier to operate

General practice teams are more likely to engage and implement the service if it is easier to use, the health bodies heard.  

As of October, only 862 GP practices were referring to community pharmacists under this service.  

In contrast, more than 90% (91%) of community pharmacies had signed up to deliver the CPCS, 10,610 of the 11,600 registered pharmacies in England as of last year, according to data from PSNC. 

The two bodies have also recommended that NHS England and Improvement (NHSE&I) work with stakeholders to develop an ongoing evaluation of the service and its impacts on general practice workload, patients’ outcomes, and any impacts on health inequalities.  

General practices in England are being encouraged to sign up to the CPCS before 1 December if they want to access a £250m winter access fund.  

NHSE&I has published a plan for improving patient access to appointments in October, which said that patients’ ability to access primary care ‘is often not as good as it should be’. The winter funding package for general practice aims to ‘increase the proportion of appointments delivered face to face. 

According to NHSE&I, around 10% of online GP consultations could potentially be referred to pharmacies via the CPCS. 

An audit conducted by PSNC, published in May, revealed that pharmacies across England are providing around 1.1 million consultations every week without remuneration because patients were not formally referred through CPCS. 

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