The community pharmacy negotiator has condemned the ‘significant problems’ with IT systems it said the sector has faced this week.

Community Pharmacy England (CPE) underlined the frustration, ‘additional work and stress’ the issues were causing for pharmacy teams and reiterated that ‘pharmacies must not end up being out of pocket because of IT problems which are outside of their control’.

The negotiator’s comments follow reports of ‘discrepancies’ around the number of Pharmacy First consultations recorded by community pharmacy IT systems, as well as ‘chaos’ caused by a security update introduced by one IT supplier last week.

‘There have been significant problems with regards to pharmacy IT over the past week, with regards to claiming payments and implementation of security measures,’ CPE chief executive Janet Morrison said in a statement last night.

‘These have been extremely frustrating for pharmacy owners and their teams, creating additional work and stress at a time when they are working hard to support patients and deliver this new service,’ she added.

And she said that CPE had been ‘actively reporting’ all problems to NHS England (NHSE) and NHSBSA ‘and working on this matter on a daily basis’.

‘We have insisted that pharmacies must not end up being out of pocket because of IT problems which are outside of their control – particularly given that if we don’t meet targets for the Pharmacy First service, we will have monthly payments clawed back,’ Ms Morrison added.

Contractors received an email this week from NHSBSA acknowledging potential discrepancies in data for Pharmacy First claims in the Manage Your Service (MYS) portal, CPE said.

But NHSBSA advised that ‘they do not anticipate this having an impact on payments for the Pharmacy First service’, CPE added.

It also reported that NHSBSA said ‘they are working with IT system suppliers as a matter of urgency and will provide a further update when they have additional information to share’.

And it advised pharmacy owners to ‘continue to work with their Pharmacy First IT system supplier helpdesk to escalate any discrepancies’; avoid confirming their claims in MYS until the issue has been resolved; and contact the MYS team for guidance if they had submitted a claim with incorrect information.

Earlier this week, NHSBSA confirmed to The Pharmacist that due to data issues surrounding some IT suppliers, there were some ‘discrepancies’ in the number of urgent medicine consultations recorded under Pharmacy First in England.

It followed concerns raised by the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) last week that the MYS portal – which is used by pharmacies for reimbursement and remuneration tasks – had been incorrectly recording the number of Pharmacy First consultations, potentially leaving pharmacies ‘out of pocket by thousands of pounds’.

Responding to the NPA’s concerns, the NHSBSA said this particular issue had been ‘resolved’ earlier in the month. It is also understood that the NHSBSA extended the deadline for pharmacy owners to make their claims for February Pharmacy First consultations on MYS until 5pm on Friday 15 March 2024.

Issues were also raised last week about a multi-factor authentication update to PharmOutcomes – a system used by pharmacies to manage Pharmacy First referrals – which reportedly ‘caused havoc’ for pharmacists.

As of 12 February 2024, over 32,000 consultations had been delivered in community pharmacy in England under the seven Pharmacy First clinical pathways, according to NHS England (NHSE)’s head of delivery for community pharmacy clinical strategy.

Pharmacy First in England was supposed to be underpinned by an 'interoperable' IT system that would 'streamline' the referral process.

But in order to make the 31 January launch date, the community pharmacy negotiator 'agreed a minimum viable product' using existing Community Pharmacy Consultation Scheme (CPCS) referral routes, Ms Morrison recently told a parliamentary inquiry.

And the promised updates could still be weeks away, chief pharmaceutical officer for England David Webb suggested recently.