The misconception that pharmacy consultations are inferior to GP consultations needs to be abandoned if the community pharmacy consultation service (CPCS) is to be successful, past BMA lead Dr Richard Vautrey has said.

Speaking at the All-Party Pharmacy Group’s webinar last night (1 December) on making the most of pharmacy in primary care, Dr Vautrey, ex BMA GP committee chair, spoke of how the CPCS can be improved, and as part of that, called for the value of pharmacy consultations to be promoted.

‘We need to do much more to talk up the value of a pharmacy consultation, because all too often it is thought if you have not seen the GP you have had a second-rate consolation, this is the perception across the whole of the community-based services.

‘If a patient is seen by a psychotherapist, a pharmacist, a physician's assistant or a GP it should be all seen as one equally valid consultation’, he said.

‘We need to value — as a whole nation — every consultation in its own right, rather than seeing it as being seen as a secondary service because it is not.’

‘We as GPs value the role of our community pharmacists and we want to empower them to help our patients in the community.’

In a report published last month (November), health bodies called for the role of community pharmacists to be expanded to include the supply of certain prescription-only medicines for the CPCS.

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.

Mr Vautrey also said that the current CPCS system is too ‘bureaucratic’.

‘It takes GP surgeries far too long to refer patients through the CPCS,’ he explained.

He also said that some of his patients are ‘annoyed’ when they have to pay for a prescription when referred to a pharmacy when the same prescription would have been free if prescribed by GP.

The CPCS has been extended in some areas of England to include a referral from urgent care settings, as part of a pilot.

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.