CPCS – GP referral pathway

Published on: 30th October 2020 | Updated on: 12th October 2023

From 1st November 2020, the CPCS was extended across England to include referrals from general practices as well as from NHS 111.

Once preparatory work has been undertaken at a local level, GPs can refer patients to community pharmacies to receive a CPCS consultation for minor illness (unlike NHS 111, GPs cannot refer patients for an urgent supply of a medicine or appliance).

Click on a heading below for further information.

Key points for pharmacy contractors

  • Pharmacies which were already registered to provide CPCS did not need to re-register to receive referrals from GPs, as this was an extension to the existing Advanced service;
  • General practices can choose whether they want to refer patients to the CPCS and before GPs can make referrals, there must be local discussions to agree how this will work. These discussions will involve pharmacy contractors, the Primary Care Network (PCN) and the member general practices, the NHS and your Local Pharmaceutical Committee (LPC);
  • Your LPC will support contractors to get involved in the roll out of the GP referral pathway into the CPCS. Work to support the rollout is being undertaken by NHS England regional teams; this involves local planning discussions with LPCs, Clinical Commissioning Groups and other partners that will be able to support the process, including the NHS Time for Care Team;
  • Pharmacy teams can support this local preparatory work by using any local relationships they have with general practices to support LPC and NHS England efforts to engage practices in discussions about the rollout of the referral pathway. Where a local general practice indicates interest in rolling out the pathway, pass this information to your LPC, so this can be followed up;
  • Pharmacy contractors that are not registered to provide the service can still do so via the NHSBSA Manage Your Service (MYS) portal.

How pharmacies can prepare for the rollout of referrals

You can start to prepare for the local rollout by:

  1. Reading the NHS CPCS Toolkit for pharmacy staff, so you understand more about how the pathway will operate;
  2. Reading the service specification;
  3. Briefing relevant staff on the changes to CPCS;
  4. Ensuring pharmacists that will provide the service read the updated toolkit and service specification;
  5. Supporting pharmacists to reflect on continuing professional development activity they could undertake to provide the best possible service to patients, which could include undertaking the NHS-funded CPCS training provided by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the Royal College of General Practitioners.

Contractors can use the below action plan template to guide their teams through the tasks necessary to implement the referral pathway in the pharmacy. Additional actions can be added, as necessary, to meet the needs of the pharmacy team and the local situation.

GP referral pathway to the CPCS – Action Plan template for pharmacy teams (Word)

GP referral pathway to the CPCS – Action Plan template for pharmacy teams (PDF)

GP referrals to CPCS – Summary details for local PCN area (Word)

GP referrals to CPCS – Summary details for local PCN area (PDF)

Frequently Asked Questions (primarily for general practice teams)

Further resources to support general practices and PCNs with the rollout of the pathway are available on the FutureNHS Collaboration Platform.

Contractors registered to provide the CPCS could claim a £300 engagement and setup payment if they undertook a range of actions to get ready for rolling out the referral pathway in their area by 30th June 2021. The requirements that had to be met are detailed in Annex F of the updated service specification.

Further information and resources on the GP referral pathway

Template PowerPoint presentation to use in discussions with practices and PCNs

Watch a video on how the pilot service was implemented in the Avon LPC area

Watch highlights from the Avon LPC video

Read the NHS England case study on the pilot in Avon

CPCS – a view from a community pharmacist

CPCS – a view from a practice manager

CPCS – GP referral to NHS Community Pharmacist consultation service – Blackburn with Darwen/Knowsley (case study)

NHS England blog – What the CPCS data tells us so far

NPA videos – Getting the best out of GP CPCS

Community Pharmacy England has worked with NHS England, the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP), the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the Primary Care Pharmacy Association to produce a briefing note and case study which outlines how the GP referral pathway works and how to implement it in Primary Care Networks and practices.

In late May 2021, RCGP and NHS England held a webinar on GP referrals to CPCS, aimed at GPs and their teams:

RCGP/NHS England webinar on GP referrals to CPCS

An implementation toolkit available on the dedicated GP CPCS page on Future NHS provides resources and templates to support practice staff and PCNs to implement the service.

A communications toolkit of patient-facing materials has been produced by NHS England to support practice teams’ engagement with patients when making referrals to CPCS and includes:

  • a patient leaflet;
  • an easy read leaflet;
  • a poster;
  • a digital screen display;
  • social media assets; and
  • a toolkit briefing note which explains how to use all the materials.

The patient leaflet has also been translated into ten languages.

These resources, developed in conjunction with various general practices, aim to support communicating with patients, to build understanding and confidence about the referral pathway.

PCC has developed case studies after talking to practices and Primary Care Networks about how they made GPCPCS work for themselves and their patients:

Community Pharmacy England has developed an animation and infographic to help describe the GP referral pathway into the CPCS, primarily aimed at GP practice teams. The animation outlines how referrals work and what pharmacies do with those referrals, as well as the success of NHS 111 referrals into the CPCS. The infographic complements the animation but in a one-page factsheet format.

Watch the animation:

View the infographic: Portrait or Landscape

LPCs and pharmacy teams are encouraged to share the animation with local GP practices, LMCs, PCNs and CCGs to improve understanding and engagement with the GP referral pathway into the CPCS in their areas. You can show the animation at meetings directly from this webpage or, if required, download from the Dropbox folder.

Whilst the full video is only a few minutes long, we have also made some shorter clips of the animation. These can be used to make specific points and gain more traction on social media. You can download these clips via the links below.

On social media, please use the hashtag #GPCPCS. You may also wish to use some of the draft tweets we have created: Tweet templates

If general practices or PCNs want to discuss the rollout of the GP referral pathway into CPCS, they can contact the relevant NHS England regional lead via the following email addresses:

London England.Lon-GPCPCS@NHS.net


North Eastengland.ney.pctransformation@nhs.net

South Eastengland.seprimarycaretransformationteam@nhs.net

South Westengland.pharmacysouthwest@nhs.net

North West (Cheshire & Merseyside) – england.CMPharmacy@nhs.net

North West (Greater Manchester) – england.gmtop@nhs.net

North West (Lancashire and South Cumbria) – england.lancsat-pharmacy@nhs.net

East of Englandmlcsu.gpcpcs@nhs.net

Return to the CPCS hub page


For more information on this topic please email services.team@cpe.org.uk

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