The Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS) has been extended in some areas of England to include referral from urgent care settings, as part of a pilot.

In a service agreement and specification notice, published this month (November), NHS England and Improvement (NHSE&I) said the pilot would begin by 1 December and end on 30 June 2022.

Participating pharmacies will receive an initial set up payment of £665 and an additional £14 for each completed referral from settings from urgent treatment centres (UTCs) and accident and emergency departments (EDs), the NHS Business Services Authority (NHSBSA) said in the service announcement.

Contractors who wish to take part in the service must have a pharmacy located within one of the selected CCGs which includes Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire CCG; East and West Sussex CCGs; Kent and Medway CCG; Coventry and Warwickshire CCG; Blackpool, Fylde and Wyre CCG; Bury CCG; Wakefield CCG; Northumberland; North Tyneside and Gateshead CCGs; Tameside and Glossop CCG.

The participating pharmacy must also have completed at least 60% of all CPCS referrals over the last six months, it explained.

Contractors who are eligible to take part in the service will be contacted by their NHSEI regional team.

A statement on Blackpool; Fylde and Wyre CCGs’ website, published this week (23 November), said its pilot was to begin on 1 December, with 25 community pharmacies in the region taking part.

NHSBSA said the extended CPCS is 'expected to relieve pressure on urgent and emergency care by referring patients to a consultation with a community pharmacist where they would usually have attended a GP of GP out of hours appointment, or a UTC or ED department, due to running out of regular medicines or requiring support with low acuity or minor illness’.

The body said it hoped the service would ‘help tackle elements of existing health inequalities by providing urgent access to patients who are not registered with a GP’.

It also said it hoped the service would ‘ease pressure on UEC through the coming winter period'.

The CPCS service was launched in October 2019, initially to only take referrals from NHS 111 advisors, but was extended to include GP referrals in November 2020.

However, since its launch, contractors have expressed concern that the service is flawed after receiving very few, and in some cases, no referrals from GPs.

According to NHS England, around 10% of online GP consultations could potentially be referred to pharmacies via the CPCS.

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.