An IT functionality that will enable pharmacists to automatically update GP records with Pharmacy First consultations will be rolled out in a ‘phased’ manner from this week.

But the speed of the roll-out will largely depend on the readiness of pharmacy IT systems, one GP system provider has suggested.

At the time of publishing, one pharmacy IT provider had confirmed to The Pharmacist that it would go live with the update this week.

The GP Connect functionality which will enable pharmacists to add to GP records with ‘one click’ was originally due to be live in time for the Pharmacy First launch on 31 January, but was delayed multiple times.

During this time, pharmacists have had to send updates to GP surgeries via NHSmail or hard copy, which have then had to be manually added to patient records.

In its primary care bulletin issued on Thursday (21 March) NHS England said that the new functionality, which will provide practices ‘with structured information’ about pharmacy consultations for blood pressure checks, contraception and Pharmacy First consultations ‘will begin a phased roll out' this week beginning 25 March.

GP practices will see a gradual increase in messages as pharmacy systems go live.

‘Practice staff will no longer have to manually manage this information via NHSmail; data will go straight into the workflow and can be automatically filed or viewed and filed with a single click,’ NHSE said.

It added that the service ‘will reduce burden and improve patient safety’ by minimising the number of times information is inputted and showing relevant information more quickly in the Summary Care Record.

But a spokesperson for GP system provider TPP told our sister title Pulse that it was not expecting high volumes of updates to be sent while the new system is rolled out.

They said: ‘Over the coming weeks we expect pharmacy systems to start to send structured updates back to the patient’s registered GP practice, with message volumes increasing depending on pharmacy system readiness.'

‘It means that whilst all SystmOne GP practices will have the ability to receive the new structured update messages, we are not expecting high volumes of messages to be received through this mechanism initially.’

And they said that practices could choose to disable the new functionality and instead continue to receive consultation summaries via NHSmail.

Leanne Hackett, senior product lead for Cegedim Healthcare Solution’s UK community pharmacy division told The Pharmacist today: 'We’re ready to go live.'

And she said that Cegedim would enable the functionality on its Pharmacy Services platform this week that would mean 'every user who completes a Pharmacy First, Contraception or Hypertension Case-Finding service will also automatically update the patient’s GP record via GP Connect.'

She said the update was 'another important step towards primary care and community pharmacy working in closer collaboration'.

'We’re committed to continuing to work closely with the NHS to deliver the next phase of the GP Connect integration which will allow our community pharmacy customers access to the GP patient care record, surfacing clinical details to further inform decision making in pharmacy and improve patient outcomes,' Ms Hackett added.

Commenting on the development, Community Pharmacy England (CPE)'s IT Policy Manager, Dan Ah-Thion, told The Pharmacist: 'We welcome this development which has been supported by Community Pharmacy England and Community Pharmacy IT Group.

'The Pharmacy First consultation record should automatically send structured updates to the GP record. This should replace the burdensome process in which pharmacy teams and GP practices had needed to use NHSmail.

'IT suppliers and NHS England must carefully monitor the technology during the early testing and rollout stages to check that it works as required. IT suppliers must also communicate to their users as they roll this out,' he added.

Parts of this article first appeared on our sister site Pulse.