An update on Pharmacy First and new FAQs

It’s just over two weeks into the new Pharmacy First service, and we wanted to take a moment to thank pharmacy owners, their teams and the network of LPCs for getting this service up and running. You have worked incredibly hard to prepare for this rapid launch to meet the Government’s extremely ambitious timeline.

Teething problems are to be expected with any new service – and particularly with one that has gone from announcement to implementation in fewer than 11 weeks. You may be aware that concerns about how the service is operating have been raised by some GPs. This is disappointing, but unfortunately is not the first time this has happened when a new service aimed at taking some of the load off GPs has been launched. These isolated incidents should ideally be handled locally, and without fuelling further media coverage, and you may find our media lines helpful in doing so.

Meanwhile, you’ve been telling us a different story. There has been a significant amount of positive feedback shared with us and we encourage you to keep sharing your stories on social media, tagging us in @ComPharmEngland. We’re keen to see these and highlight specific examples of how the service has helped you to better support your patients. Look out for more on this shortly.

Next week the NHS PR campaign will launch, helping raise awareness of what over 95% of community pharmacies now offer. As public behaviour begins to change, more people will go to their pharmacy first and realise just how valuable pharmacy teams are.

New FAQs published

We are continuing to respond to lots of your questions relating to the service, with the most frequently asked being added to our website.

A selection of new questions added to the page can be found below and you can see the rest of our FAQs on the Pharmacy First FAQ page.

Q. Can I offer other NHS services, such as the Hypertension case-finding service to eligible patients when they visit for a Pharmacy First consultation?

Q. How can healthcare professionals identify pharmacies providing the service, so they can refer patients to them?
More than 95% of pharmacies are signed up to provide the service and healthcare professionals can check pharmacy profiles in NHS Service Finder to identify which pharmacies are registered to provide the service. Additionally, if general practice teams use EMIS local or PharmRefer to make referrals to the service, participating pharmacies are shown in those systems.

Q. Can I supply OTC medicines as part of a clinical pathways consultation?
Bar the supply of Hydrogen Peroxide cream (which is an OTC medicine) under the treatment protocol for impetigo, no other OTC medicines can be supplied as part of clinical pathways consultations. Similarly, the supply of OTC medicines is not part of minor illness consultations. If a patient has a need for an OTC medicine, the NHS guidance expects them to purchase that themselves. If there is a locally commissioned minor ailment service and the patient is eligible to receive an OTC medicine under that service, that could provide an alternative option for the patient.

Q. Will the Pharmacy First consultation fee be paid for consultations with self-presenting (walk-in) patients who do not pass a Gateway point in the relevant clinical pathway?
No. For self-presenting patients, a fee will only be paid where the consultation is provided and the patient’s condition/situation passes a Gateway point in the clinical pathway. The discussions with these patients will incur a cost for pharmacy owners, which is a concern for Community Pharmacy England and is one of the reasons we negotiated the £1000 monthly payment which will be paid to pharmacies providing the service, subject to them meeting the minimum clinical pathway consultation numbers set out in the Drug Tariff.

If a patient is referred to the service, e.g. by a general practice, if they do not pass a Gateway point in the clinical pathway, the patient can still have a consultation under the minor illness consultation part of the service and a consultation fee will be paid for that.

Q. Can a self-presenting (walk-in) patient who passes a Gateway point in one of the clinical pathways then receive a minor illness consultation?
No. Such patients can only receive a clinical pathways consultation, which subject to the individual pathway and relevant PGDs may or may not result in the provision of a medicine.

Q. If I have to refer a patient to another pharmacy, as the medicine they need, based on eligibility criteria in the clinical pathway and PGD, is not available at my pharmacy, will I be paid a consultation fee?
No. Where a patient has to be referred to another pharmacy, a consultation fee will not be paid.

Q. I work at a distance selling pharmacy. If I have to refer a patient to another pharmacy, as the medicine they need, based on eligibility criteria in the clinical pathway and PGD, cannot be delivered to them until the following day, but they need the medicine today, will I be paid a consultation fee?
No. Where a patient has to be referred to another pharmacy, a consultation fee will not be paid.

Q. Are people not registered with a GP eligible for the service?
Yes. As well as providing the service, the pharmacy team could also explain how the patient can register with a GP practice. When entering the patient’s details on the Pharmacy First IT system, use the “unknown” option for their GP, to enable you to continue with the consultation.

Q. How do I raise an issue regarding Pharmacy First IT systems?
Pharmacy teams should contact the helpdesk of their Pharmacy First IT system to raise a ticket. Where the issue relates to one of the NHS-provided IT systems which is supporting the service, your Pharmacy First IT system supplier will escalate the issue to the relevant NHS IT team. This process is explained further in our Briefing on Reporting NHS IT, CPCF IT and EPS issues.

Q. Where a medicine is supplied under the service, is the reimbursement based on the electronic submission to MYS, from my Pharmacy First IT system, or the printed EPS token on which the patient declares their prescription charge exemption or payment?
Reimbursement is made on the electronic submission to MYS. The printed tokens completed by patients and submitted to the NHSBSA at month end are only used for the purpose of checking patients’ exemption claims.

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