Regional pharmacy service receives a national award

From left: Sean O'Reilly, UK Market Development Manager, Commercial Operations, Valneva; Andre Yeung; Mike Maguire; Meera Syal. Picture by Chemist+Druggist
From left: Sean O'Reilly, UK Market Development Manager, Commercial Operations, Valneva; Andre Yeung; Mike Maguire; Meera Syal. Picture by Chemist+Druggist

A pioneering North East service where patients calling NHS 111 are diverted to local pharmacies for help with minor illnesses has won a national award.

The Community Pharmacy Referral Service (CPRS), an NHS England Pharmacy Integration Fund commissioned pilot, allows NHS 111 operators to refer non-emergency patients to their nearest community pharmacy for a consultation during the day, at the weekend and out-of-hours.

More than 8,000 patients in the North East have now been referred into the service for advice from a pharmacist. Of those seen, only 11 per cent have been referred to a GP for an urgent in-hours appointment and another 11 per cent referred out-of-hours for support.

Originally launched in the North East for six months from December 2017, the scheme has since been extended until the end of the year and is now being set up in other areas including Devon, London and the East Midlands to help reduce pressure on urgent GP care and A&E departments.

The additional schemes will be set up in the new areas this autumn and will adopt the model used in the North East.

CPRS beat seven other shortlisted entries in the 2018 Chemist and Druggist Health Initiative of the Year category.

The judges said: “It’s inspiring to see a scheme like this, which makes full use of the sector’s potential and reduces NHS pressure in the bargain.”

The North East scheme is run by the NHS in partnership with local pharmacy contractors and North East Ambulance Service. More than 380 pharmacies across Northumberland, Durham, Darlington, Tees, and Tyne and Wear are currently taking part.

Andre Yeung, Local Professional Network chairman – Northumberland, Tyne and Wear, and a member of the team that set up the service, said: “Patients really like the fact they can see a pharmacist close to home and quickly and the service has the potential to deliver benefits to the public across the country.

“We are delighted that pharmacists are making such a difference to patient care and that the service being recognised and supported.”

More than 80 per cent of patients surveyed report that they are ‘very satisfied’ and the pilot has been extended to three more areas for a further six months.