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Urgent and emergency care

NUMSAS referrals to community pharmacy more than double in a year

The number of referrals to community pharmacy through the NHS Urgent Medicine Supply Advanced Service (NUMSAS) has more than doubled in the past year, according to data from NHS England.

In a letter sent to NUMSAS providers on 17 May 2019, NHS England said the service has made 245,096 referrals to community pharmacy from the time it was launched in December 2016 to February 2019.

This comes after a previous letter published on 31 May 2018 stated that there had been 66,191 referrals through the service between December 2016 and January 2018 — suggesting that there had been 178,905 referrals in the intervening year between February 2018 and February 2019.

This is equivalent to a nearly 113,000 year-on-year increase in referrals through NUMSAS, while 163 more pharmacies signed up to offer the service in that time, according to the NHS England data.

A spokesperson for NHS England told The Pharmaceutical Journal that the increase in referrals is because some areas have seen the functionality for NHS 111 services changed so that community pharmacy is now the preferred option for urgent medicines issues, which has also greatly increased referral numbers.

“This is further evidence that joined-up care between the NHS 111 service and high street pharmacists is convenient for patients, giving them access to treatment and medication when they need it without the need to get a GP appointment and, as the NHS in England delivers our long-term plan for the health service, different services will be even more closely integrated, meaning faster care and a more effective use of NHS resources,” the spokesperson said.

NHS England added that the improved use of NUMSAS also reinforces that community pharmacy is the most appropriate source of help and guidance on medicines issues.

The letter also said that NUMSAS has had a “continued significant impact on GP out-of-hours appointments”.

“The national picture shows that as a percentage of total referrals for urgent repeat medicines in February 2019, NUMSAS accounted for 56% compared to 27% for GP out of hours.”

This is a further increase on figures published in January 2019, which showed that 54% of referrals for urgent repeat medicines from NHS 111 in November 2018 were directed to pharmacies, compared with 31% being referred to an out-of-hours GP.

In March 2019, NHS England confirmed that the NUMSAS pilot would be extended for a further six months until 30 September 2019, after having already extended the pilot twice since its launch in December 2016.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2019.20206580

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