Community pharmacy IT systems will automatically send details of patient consultations to general practice clinical IT systems from February 2024 to facilitate the Pharmacy First service in England, NHS England (NHSE) has confirmed today.

A GP will then check and update the patient’s record – replacing the current need for general practice staff to transcribe information from emails to the patient record.

And GP IT system suppliers will enable this update by default.

In its primary care bulletin published this afternoon, NHSE also reminded contractors to familiarise themselves with the service specification and clinical pathways for the service.

And it reiterated that contractors must opt into the service by 31 January in order to qualify for the £2,000 one-off payment, while to deliver the contraception service they must opt-in to the new extended service by 29 February.

When Pharmacy First was first announced, the Government, NHSE and Community Pharmacy England said they agreed that the scheme would launch on 31 January 2024, subject to the ‘appropriate digital systems being in place’ to support the services.

They said this would include investment to ‘significantly connect and improve’ the digital infrastructure between general practice and community pharmacy to ‘streamline referrals’, ‘increase access’ to more parts of the GP patient record and improve how GP records are updated following the provision of pharmacy services.

The development of a clinical triage system to send electronic referrals for the seven common conditions from NHS 111 and urgent and emergency care settings to community pharmacy was also being planned.

NHSE previously suggested that it was not confident IT solutions would be in place for the planned 31 January rollout of Pharmacy First.

NHSE chief information officer John Quinn said in December that the scheme will operate in ‘a complex environment’ with ‘multiple suppliers and a fixed time scale’.

He said: ‘I think it’s right to be cautious about the delivery. Everyone’s doing everything they can with daily calls and holding suppliers to account, and so we’re monitoring it really closely.’

Pallavi Dawda, head of delivery – clinical strategy, community pharmacy, at NHS England, told a CPE webinar later in December that while at that time there was ‘nothing to suggest’ that delivery of Pharmacy First wasn’t on track, contingency plans were being worked up in the background.