NHS Community Pharmacist Consultation Service


With the five-year community pharmacy funding deal being announced, a new NHS Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS) will be implemented on October 2019. This advanced service will connect patients suffering from minor illness with a community pharmacist as their first point of contact.

The NHS Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS), previously called the Digital Minor Illness Referral Service (DMIRS), already started as a pilot in December 2017 in the North East. Other areas associated with the initial testing include Devon, the East Midlands and London since autumn 2018.

This first pilot programme has been successful showing great progress as referred patients consistently report high satisfaction rates. Pharmacy consultations are conducted quickly, safely and appropriately instead of patients waiting for a GP appointment.


How Does The NHS Community Pharmacist Consultation Service Work?

The CPCS is based on referrals from NHS 111 where a call advisor assesses the patient’s situation. From there, they will refer them for a consultation with a community pharmacist replacing the need to book an urgent GP appointment or contacting their own GP.

This process involves sending a formal electronic patient referral to a nominated community pharmacy. Once referred, the pharmacist will have a private consultation with the patient in a consultation room. Pharmacists will have access to a wide range of support materials to offer advice on minor illnesses and general health and well-being.

They will make appropriate clinical records after using the NICE Clinical Knowledge Summaries to assess the symptoms and offer self-care advice and treatment for relief if required as well as patient information leaflets. If a pharmacist is unable to assist, there is an option to escalate patients to a GP or out of hours services.


Same-Day Pharmacy Consultations And Referrals

Under the new pharmacy deal, patients with minor health issues will receive same-day pharmacy consultations. The NHS Community Pharmacist Consultation Service provides an opportunity for community pharmacies to play an even bigger role than ever. It will form an integral part of the NHS urgent care system this winter supporting the NHS Help Us Help You Pharmacy Advice Campaign.

Those offering the referral services in the pilot areas receive £14 per consultation but the government said it would “review the payment model at the end of 2020/2021”.

Currently there is also a GP CPCS pilot taking place and GP practices in the following areas can refer patients to a community pharmacist for a consultation in exactly the same way that NHS111 can;

  • Cheshire and Merseyside
  • Cumbria and North East
  • Greater Manchester
  • Bristol
  • North Somerset
  • South Gloucestershire
  • West Yorkshire
  • Lancashire
  • South Cumbria

If the pilot programmes are successful, referrals between GP practices and pharmacies could be implemented across the whole of England by 2020.

Community Pharmacy Referral Service (CPRS) Pilot Programme

In December 2017, the NHS launched the Community Pharmacy Referral Service (CPRS) pilot programme in the North East. During the first four months, more than 5,000 patients were referred saving GP’s an equivalent of 11 weeks worth of appointments. This signalled a potentially exciting and helpful development within urgent care which prompted a project extension until the end of September 2018 for further evaluation.

This service was commissioned by NHS England’s Pharmacy Integration Fund (PhIF) aimed at testing how patients who contact urgent care services can be better supported. The goal was to focus more on managing minor illnesses like sore throats, coughs and colds at a community pharmacy.

It also looked at how the national community pharmacy network could be integrated into urgent and emergency care (U&EC) systems. Community pharmacies are required to provide the same (or higher) level of care compared to traditional out of hours locations.


What Do People Say About The Community Pharmacist Consultation Service?

According to Mike Hewittson, managing director of Beaminster Pharmacy in Dorset, said that the service “could become a game-changer in the long run”.

Deborah Crockford, chief officer of Community Pharmacy South Central, says the service should be seen “as a positive” with pharmacies adjusting their business model to handle the influx of referrals as long as the “funding is appropriate and consistent”.

Richard Brown, chief officer of Avon local pharmaceutical committee also spoke to The Pharmaceutical Journal and believes that the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service “is brilliant”. He also posed an interesting question. “Why book somebody in for an expensive out-of-hours appointment when actually a consultation with a pharmacist out of hours would be what they need?”

Find out what Richard Brown had to say about The New Community Pharmacy Funding Deal in a recent interview with C+D.


The CPCS will start with referrals from NHS 111 but others will follow from different parts of the NHS. This will relieve pressure on the wider NHS network as it connects patients with community pharmacies instead.

A big positive is that pharmacies can treat patients closer to home in their own community with a real focus on health education and self-care. Pharmacies can deliver fast, convenient and effective services to meet the patient’s needs.

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