By Greg Dziedzicki. Community pharmacist manager, Pharmacy PCN lead (Connexus PCN)
Connexus PCN serves around 50,000 patients and was one of the pilot sites for the GP referrals into the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS).
As a community pharmacist, the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS) has been really positive for me and my team. Initially we used NHSmail to receive referrals, but we have since moved to an interoperable process for both receiving notifications and recording information about the service we provide using PharmOutcomes.
Amid COVID-19, many of the consultations we have with people are over the phone. I think having the ability to do remote video consultations would improve the consultation experience, as you would then be able to see the issues people are trying to describe. It is important that the person is contacted on the same day, so the IT needs to support this, ensuring the pharmacist receives the referral and is aware of it .For some people we just give advice, for others we may also signpost them to another organisation or to information on a website such as www.nhs.uk.
If a person needs treatment, we tell them what over-the-counter medicine or product they need to get and they can then get this from a pharmacy close to their home.
As a pilot site, we had a head start with the training which was provided locally for all pharmacy staff members. It needs to be invigorating by using real life scenarios to bring the service to life. The CPCS training was really engaging and helped us to recognise the people who would benefit from the service.
We have had to make some changes to the Patient Group Direction so it enabled us to do the consultations over the phone and only invite the person into the pharmacy if needed.
One of the barriers we came across is that not every pharmacist operates in the same way. For example, we had a locum pharmacist in our pharmacy who hadn’t received any training for using the service and was therefore unable to provide it. But we have regular pharmacy and practice meetings and link closely with the our LPC to identify any issues and then we work through problems such as this, by having open conversations and come up with solutions.
Relationships between GPs and pharmacists are key, and this service has strengthened those relationships locally – we’ve even swapped mobile numbers! Our communication with the GP practice has improved having worked together collaboratively to launch the service at a local level.
Pharmacists are able to free up capacity for GPs, better optimising general practice workloads and ensuring patient access to skilled healthcare professionals. Everyone involved in service provision needs to accept change and evolve with it, moving together as a team in the right direction and addressing barriers in a positive way.
Most importantly, this service helps the patient to recognise the skillset and expertise of a pharmacist, leading them to use a pharmacy as a first point of call in the future.
I would recommend that pharmacists make the effort to engage and make contact with local practice managers and GPs to promote and encourage greater collaboration between the professions.
For more information on the NHS CPCS, visit the RPS and NHS England websites.