NHS England’s pilot urgent medicine supply service has already been called a flawed plan by community pharmacists.

Under the scheme, which launched on December 1, patients who call NHS111 for urgent repeat medications will be referred directly to participating pharmacies rather than GP out-of-hours services.

However, there are concerns that few referrals will actually be made and that the service will cause more pressure and generate little new income for pharmacies.

“Unfortunate” that NHS111 must refer

NPA board member and Cornwall contractor Nick Kaye said “the problem” is that it is a referred service from 111 so patients will be unable to do walk-ins. “Having had an amazing local service for eight years…this is not it.”

Isle of Wight pharmacist David France said: “NHS111 should refer to pharmacy for the service, but informally and no way it should be a requirement.”

“Will 111 control budget so tightly that there will be very few referrals? Or will they do [prescriptions] as it’s already in the [out-of-hours] budget?” Mr Kaye asked.

Managing director of Wicker Pharmacy in Sheffield Martin Bennett said it is “unfortunate” that NHS111 must refer patients to the service because it already “struggles at peak times”. Patients should be able to receive the service directly from pharmacies, he added.

How will the service be funded?

The pilot is being financed by the Pharmacy Integration Fund – a £42 million pot of funding NHS England will use to develop community pharmacy.

Pharmacies offering the service will receive £12.50 for each referral, regardless of if the supply is made or not.

This will be made up of a £10 consultation fee and an administration fee of £2.50 per consultation “to reflect the additional work/documentation required to support evaluation of the service”, PSNC said.

Where medicine is dispensed, a supply fee of £1.50 for the first item and £0.50 for each additional will be paid to the pharmacy.

PSNC recommended that contractors compare the likely costs and income of the service before deciding whether it is sensible for them to provide it.

How soon can I offer it?

Each pharmacy branch looking to provide the service must first obtain a shared NHSmail mailbox.

The service will be rolled out over the next four months in four phases:

Phase 1 – December 2016 – Brighton and Hove CCG; Guildford and Waverley CCG; Blackpool CCG and Fylde and Wyre CCG; Nottingham City CCG; Cambridgeshire and Peterborough CCG

Phase 2 – January 2017 – East of England; North East; North West

Phase 3 – February 2017 – South East Coast; West Midlands; East Midlands; South West

Phase 4 – March 2017 – London; Yorkshire and Humber; South Central; Isle of Wight

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