The potential of community pharmacists to improve patient safety at the point of hospital discharge is huge but untapped at present.

We believe that patients in hospital should be routinely referred to their community pharmacist for post-discharge assistance with medicines. 

Community pharmacists can support patients to ensure that they get the best from their medicines by providing the new medicine service and post-discharge medicines use reviews, or just update their patient medication records with any changes.

Ideally, such referrals should be made electronically. If discharge letters are electronically produced in hospital, community pharmacists should have access to these as part of the referral process.


On 10 December 2014, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society launched Hospital referral to community pharmacy: An Innovators’ Toolkit to support the NHS in England. This is the first publication to be delivered by the Innovators’ Forum, a leadership group set up in response to the report Now or Never: Shaping pharmacy for the future.

The Innovators’ Forum was tasked with identifying from new pharmacy service innovations detailed in the Now or Never report which would have the biggest impact on health economies across the country if they were replicated and spread; and then to identify the means to do this.

The referral toolkit was the first innovation chosen. The inspiration for this choice came from one of the innovations in the Now or Never report: Refer-to-Pharmacy, the first fully integrated hospital to community pharmacy e-referral system. The Forum also consulted widely with other organisations that have introduced referral systems in order to ensure the toolkit was comprehensibly informed.

Hospital referral to community pharmacy: An Innovators’ Toolkit to support the NHS in England will be circulated to every CCG Medicines Optimisation lead, every Chief Pharmacist, every LPN and LPC lead in NHS England to start conversations in each health locality as to how effective referrals at scale can be made.

Vision for the future

In five years' time we want to see referrals from hospital to community pharmacies as routine; health professionals and patients will expect it. Pharmacy undergraduates will qualify as pharmacists fully expecting to be involved in either making referrals or delivering post-hospital discharge pharmaceutical services. GPs and other prescribers will refer patients electronically directly to community pharmacies for relevant medicines optimisation services.

"The RCP are very pleased to welcome this toolkit on hospital referral to community pharmacy. We strongly believe that pharmacists have a vital role to play in delivering a broad range of services. This toolkit helps to close the loop between hospital and pharmacy.

The report also chimes with the RCP’s vision for healthcare services. We believe there has to be very close working between all healthcare professions to enable joined up care to be delivered to patients at, or close to, home. The RCP’s Future Hospital report specifically highlights improving the transfer of care as being a priority, and we strongly welcome closer working with pharmacists for the benefit of our patients."

 - Dr Mark Temple
Future Hospital Officer and Consultant Physician, Royal College of Physicians

Where to go for further information

RPS resources