Sir Simon Stevens visited a community pharmacy in London even as the NHS announced that almost a third of a million health checks were conducted under its new Community Pharmacists Consultation Service.

NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) tweeted a video clip on Friday (June 19) which showed the owner of Pavillion Pharmacy in Brixton, Martin Uhelak, explain to the NHS chief executive how the scheme was helping local communities access medication and treatment for minor ailments.

“Our pharmacy has been a hub of support to the community throughout the crisis. As addition to our normal service, we’ve helped many through the NHS 111 CPCS scheme,” Uhelak was quoted as saying in a statement issued by the NHS.

Calling pharmacists ‘highly qualified clinical experts’, Sir Simon said they were “playing a key part in the NHS’s frontline response to the greatest public health threat in our history, and they are making thousands of safe, convenient consultations available every day.”

Commenting on CPCS, he said: “This new service is part of a continually-developing NHS 111 service which is helping millions of people to safely access the right help fast, often without the need to go to a hospital A&E department.

“As the NHS adapts its urgent care services for the coronavirus era, these new options are going to be increasingly important.”

Sir Simon’s visit followed Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s visit to another community pharmacy in London earlier in the week.

Commenting on Sir Simon’s visit, National Pharmacy Association CEO Mark Lyonette said: “It’s great that Sir Simon Stevens visited an NPA member this week and publicly acknowledged the vital work of pharmacies during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It’s also significant that he recognised the clinical skills of community pharmacists, which is a good basis for discussions with his senior team about the future of community pharmacy within the NHS.”

“This week we have seen very senior figures in the NHS and government visit pharmacies. We want this positive dialogue to continue and lead to real improvements on the ground, for pharmacies, patients and the NHS as a whole.”

NHSE&I released the video clip after tweeting: “Thank you to all the community pharmacists who have played such a key part in the NHS’s response to #coronavirus. The support you’ve given to communities has made a real difference to patients and their families.”

CPCS referrals

A total of 332,000 referrals via CPCS have been recorded since the new service was introduced at the end October last year.

The government has confirmed that more than 180,000 of these referrals have taken place since the end of January 2020, when the NHS began planning for the arrival of Covid-19 in the UK.

“As the pharmacy sector continues to adapt and adopt new ways of working, services like this demonstrate that pharmacy and the wider NHS will always be there for those who need it,” Pharmacy Minister Jo Churchill said, while applauding “the brilliant work of local pharmacy teams”.

Almost 190,000 people have been referred to the CPCS for an urgent medicines supply – with online referrals accounting for 91 per cent of requests for urgent medicines supply in London alone during the pandemic.

England’s Chief Pharmaceutical Officer Keith Ridge said: “Pharmacies across England have put their all into supporting their communities during Covid-19 and made a real difference to so many patients and their families.

“Now, more than ever, access to same day advice and care via the CPCS is even more valued – as demonstrated by these high usage numbers.”

According to NHS figures around 94 per cent (10,815) of all NHS pharmacies in England are now registered to provide the CPCS.

The service is available through the fast and free NHS 111 phone or online. Patients are booked in for a face-to-face consultation with a pharmacist for a range of minor illnesses or to get an urgent supply of a previously prescribed medicine.

The government says with the NHS encouraging more people to come forward for care, particularly those who might have held back due to Covid-19 concerns, local pharmacies are gearing up to provide an increasing number of consultations safely, so that all those who would benefit can be referred.

“The introduction of the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service was an important moment for the sector last year and we are pleased the number of referrals to pharmacies are continuing to increase, said Alastair Buxton, PSNC’s director of NHS Services.

“Community pharmacists have always provided high-quality care for patients, but the CPCS has helped provide a new, clearer NHS referral pathway into the sector,” Buxton added.

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