DHSC highlights importance of “appropriate digital systems” to support launch of Pharmacy First service in January 2024

The Department of Health and Social Care has announced that Pharmacy First, a service including seven new clinical pathways to replace the Community Pharmacy Consultation Service (CPCS), will be launched on January 31 2024 subject to appropriate digital systems being in place.

In a letter to community pharmacy contractors, the department states that Pharmacy First “can be delivered remotely where it is safe to do so, and with suitable safeguards to ensure face-to-face clinical assessment can be provided in person or by good-quality video consultation where needed”.

On the digital systems required to support links between general practice and community pharmacy, the DHSC refers to the delivery plan for recovering access to primary care’s commitment to investing in the improvement of digital infrastructure. It highlights the importance of making these improvements to help streamline referrals, and to improve the way that GP records are updated following the provision of pharmacy services.

The letter highlights current work with pharmacy IT system suppliers to update their clinical systems to support the launch of Pharmacy First clinical pathways, alongside work with NHS Pathways to “develop the clinical triage system to send electronic referrals from NHS 111 and urgent and emergency care settings to community pharmacy that may otherwise go to a GP practice”.

From the launch date, contractors will have increased access to the GP record, to include medications, observations and investigations. They will also use the new Pharmacy First consultation record to capture the consultation, “which will then send automatic structured updates to the GP record and to the NHS Business Services Authority to support payments and reporting on the service”.

The DHSC notes that these improvements will help to further integrate community pharmacy, preparing for the commissioning of a wider range of clinical services in the future, at neighbourhood, place, ICB and national level.

We considered the role of digital in the wider GP access recovery plan back in May, which revealed a commitment to improving digital access and tools, support citizen remote care, build capacity and expand supporting services such as community pharmacies.

In our deep dive from August, we took a look at developments and research in the area of community pharmacy since the Fuller stocktake in 2022.

To read the DHSC’s letter on the Pharmacy First launch, please click here.