Minister wants a 'direct' Pharmacy First model for England

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Minister wants a 'direct' Pharmacy First model for England

Pharmacy minister Maria Caulfield has indicated that the Government may seek to introduce “a more pharmacy-first model” for England instead of requiring patients to be referred to pharmacies by their GPs for minor ailments.

In a Commons debate on the availability of GP appointments in England last Wednesday, the parliamentary under secretary for health and MP for Lewes Ms Caulfield said the “promotion of pharmacists” within primary care is “one of the most exciting innovations” that has been made to free up capacity.

She commented: “We have a Community Pharmacist Consultation Service whereby patients who phone 111 or contact their GP can be referred direct to pharmacists, who are taking on prescribing skills so that they can prescribe as well as dispense.

“We are looking towards a more pharmacy-first model as in Scotland and Wales, where patients can go direct to pharmacists without necessarily going first to the GP, opening up primary care and making it much more accessible.”

Scotland’s Pharmacy First service is widely seen as more successful than the CPCS, with consultations far outstripping the English service in a shorter timeframe.

A Pharmacy Network News investigation last November found that the CPCS was worth less than £750 per year to the average pharmacy.

Ms Caulfield’s remarks echo those made by health secretary Sajid Javid in late 2021 when he said he wanted to “go further” than the CPCS by making it “quicker and easier” for patients to access care.

PSNC services director Alastair Buxton told PNN: "We share the Minister's ambition to expand CPCS to self-referrals. 

"PSNC has long called for a 'Pharmacy First' service for minor ailments and we know that patients and local communities are increasingly relying on pharmacies for help with both minor and more serious conditions. 

"However, the walk-in advice that pharmacies provide must be fully funded, and we expect this to be a key topic for discussion in the upcoming negotiations on Year 4 of the five-year CPCF deal."

NHS England has attempted in a number of ways to boost the number of referrals from GP surgeries to community pharmacies via the general practice arm of the CPCS, such as making additional winter funding available to those practices that engage with the service.

NHSE&I declined to comment on Ms Caulfield’s remarks when approached by Pharmacy Network News.

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