GP digital referral pilot needs work, pharmacists say

Pharmacists have reported back on the GP digital referral service pilot, saying that it needs ‘tinkering’ with

As reported by Chemist and Druggist, pharmacists have said that the GP digital referral service pilot needs ‘tinkering’ with.

The two pharmacists in question have been receiving referrals in this way and identified a few issues.

The aim of the scheme is to have GPs refer patients with low-acuity conditions directly to pharmacies.

Laura Mullan, pharmacy manager at Asda in Halton Lea, Runcorn, told Chemist and Druggist that her pharmacy has received seven referrals since the service went live in June.

She attributed the low number of patients to only surgeries currently piloting the service in her area.

However, she added that it would have been “a nightmare” if they had had a few referrals every day, as “it can take ages” for a pharmacist to attend to each patient’s needs, she claimed.

Depending on the patient, “you could spend a good half an hour or 40 minutes” conducting the consultation, she said, and even longer if the pharmacy then needs to refer the patient back to the GP.

She added that, at the moment, “it’s just extra paperwork and extra workload to do a job we’re already doing.”

Helen Murphy, joint CEO of Halton, St Helens and Knowsley local pharmaceutical committee (LPC) added that there needs to be an audit trail; GPs are asked to make a record of their consultations, and that “shouldn’t be any different in a community pharmacy”.

Pharmacies are now “getting paid for a consultation with a patient that follows National Institute for health and Care Excellence guidance. It’s a direct referral from the GP practice, so you would expect [to have] an audit trail”.

She added that the scheme is “a great opportunity for community pharmacy to demonstrate what they can do with treating minor illnesses and supporting GP practices out of hours”.

“We didn’t want to overwhelm our community pharmacies with a massive volume of referrals. However, going forward, we’re going to be looking to increase the volume.”

The pharmacists also reported problems with IT system setups. An anonymous pharmacist said that the process was currently taking too long, adding: “The receptionist at the GP [practice] will have to go through several steps to be able to refer one single patient. I think NHS England is looking to make it a one-step process in future,” they said.

“It is still in the pilot stage and it needs a lot of tinkering around the edges, but once it is developed further, it might be easier to do.”

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