Nine in 10 community pharmacies have now signed up to deliver the community pharmacist consultation service (CPCS), the Government has said.

The CPCS, announced as part of the new English community pharmacy contract in July and launched in October, sees pharmacists paid £14 for each same-day consultation resulting from an NHS 111 referral for minor illnesses or urgent prescriptions.

More than 90% (91%) of community pharmacies have signed up to deliver the ‘pharmacy first’ service so far – 10,610 out of the 11,600 registered in England – which aims to ‘relieve pressure on GPs and A&E’, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.

In October, it was announced that almost three-quarters of English community pharmacies had signed up to offer the service.

Over 100k consultations

Community pharmacies in England have delivered more than 114,000 consultations within the first 10 weeks of the CPCS, the DHSC added.

Of the 114,275 consultations conducted between 29 October and 6 January, 56% (64,067) were for urgent medicines supply for conditions such as diabetes and asthma and 44% were for minor illnesses (50,208) such as an earache or a sore throat.

Pharmacies in the North West delivered the most consultations at 20,972, where almost two-thirds (63%) were for urgent medicines, compared with 37% for minor illnesses.

‘Exactly what we need’

Health secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘Thousands of patients receiving same-day advice from highly-skilled pharmacists is exactly what we need.

‘Community pharmacy is an integral and trusted part of the NHS and we want every patient with a minor illness to think ‘pharmacy first’.’

He added that he wants to see pharmacists ‘ready and able to do much more’ to keep people out of hospitals, as well as more patients with minor illnesses being assessed ‘close to home’.

High satisfaction levels

Deputy chief pharmaceutical officer for England, Dr Bruce Warner, said that the service has been ‘a fantastic success’.

He added: ‘This unlocks the full potential of community pharmacy, giving it a more central role in healthcare and speeding up patients’ access to excellent care and face-to-face consultations.

‘The number of referrals from NHS 111 in the first two months alone shows how well it is working and reaction has been good, with people telling us they have been satisfied with the service they received.’

‘A long time coming’

Simon Dukes, Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) chief executive, said that he is ‘delighted’ that so many pharmacies are now offering the ‘important’ service.

He said: ‘The CPCS has been a long time coming. But finally, pharmacists on the high street are being asked to use their clinical skills and knowledge to help patients manage minor conditions and it gives patients a convenient option for receiving high quality and clinically safe care and advice when they need it.’

The service is expected to expand to include direct referrals from GPs ‘by the end of 2020’, subject to the success of pilots, the DHSC said.