Pharmacies will have to revert to using old systems or even paper-based solutions if GPs switch off the Pharmacy First Update Record as advised by the British Medical Association (BMA), sector leaders have warned.

As reported earlier today, the BMA urged GPs on Friday to urgently switch off Pharmacy First Update Record, warning the service could lead to increased ‘workload dump' for GPs.

But Alastair Buxton, director of NHS Services at Community Pharmacy England (CPE), said that if GP practices chose to switch off the functionality, then community pharmacy IT systems would automatically revert to using NHSmail.

He stressed that the recent activation of Update Record ‘was intended to reduce workload in general practices, as information on consultations provided in pharmacies doesn’t have to be manually copied into records from emailed PDF documents’.

‘Like community pharmacy teams, we know general practices are also feeling the strain of increasing demand with little support in return, so it does seem counterintuitive to switch off functionality designed to reduce administrative workload at practices and improve patient safety,’ he said.

Malcolm Harrison, chief executive of the Company Chemists’ Association, said the CCA fully understood and recognised the pressures that general practice faces.

‘As with community pharmacy, historic underfunding has led to a worrying spate of closures. Moreover, across primary care, workforce shortages continue to detrimentally impact patient access.’

He added: ‘However, we strongly recommend against GP practices switching off GP Connect functionality.

‘Pharmacy teams will continue to provide care, for instance Pharmacy First consultations. Without GP Connect functionality, pharmacies may have to revert to paper-based solutions to notify GPs of care provided via the service. This is likely to increase general practice workload, at a time when many are under increasing pressure.’

Meanwhile, Gareth Jones, director of corporate affairs for the National Pharmacy Association, said the NPA was ‘thoroughly examining the details of the BMA’s proposed actions, to fully understand the implications for NPA members’.

Jay Badenhorst, director of pharmacy at the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA), said that the PDA supported efforts ‘to make sure every NHS contract, trust and clinical service is properly funded and can be most effective to support patient care’.

He explained: ‘The BMA are currently balloting those of their members who are GP partner contractors, the equivalent of community pharmacy contractors, to see if they will take some action regarding their contract, but the details of what that would be and when it would happen are not yet confirmed.

‘Pharmacists working in GP practices and in community pharmacies will need to see the details of what is agreed by GP contractors before understanding the potential consequences for their own activity and patients.

‘If in the meantime GP contractors are making changes which impact the delivery of the community pharmacy contract, the NHS who are the client for both contracts need to urgently resolve the issue in the interests of patient care.’