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Community pharmacy services

Digital hospital-to-pharmacy referral service delayed until January 2021

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee said it expects hospitals to be able to digitally refer discharged patients to pharmacies in England from January 2021.

computer digital electronic prescribing pharmacy

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The roll-out of the discharge medicines service was delayed owing to the impact of COVID-19

Hospitals will be able to digitally refer discharged patients to community pharmacies across England from January 2021, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has said.

The ‘discharge medicines service’ (DMS) was announced in February 2020 as part of an update to the ‘Community pharmacy contractual framework for 2019/2020 to 2023/2024’ and was expected to launch in July 2020.

The roll-out was delayed “due to the impact of COVID-19”, but the PSNC said in a negotiations update, published on 26 August 2020, that it “now expects the service to launch in January 2021”, as the service specification and funding arrangements continue to be finalised.

It will allow hospitals to digitally notify community pharmacies when patients who have recently been discharged may require advice on taking new medicines, as well as any changes to their prescriptions.

The service aims to reduce the number of hospital readmissions caused by side effects or complications relating to medicines prescribed while a patient is in hospital.

The PSNC update also announced that the hepatitis C testing service, which was planned to start in April 2020, will now begin “imminently” when the service specification and funding arrangements are published.

However, additional funding for the sector has yet to be agreed, with the PSNC writing to the Department of Health and Social Care and Jo Churchill, the parliamentary under-secretary of state for prevention, public health and primary care, asking for an urgent uplift to the agreed community pharmacy contractual framework (CPCF) funding.

In July 2019, the PSNC and the government agreed a total of £13bn over the five years for community pharmacy between 2019/2020 and 2023/2024 at a flat rate of £2.59bn each year.

Simon Dukes, chief executive of the PSNC, said the “financial toll” of the pandemic “is now being felt, and PSNC’s job is to make that case effectively to [the] government”, adding that the PSNC has been “increasingly working alongside our GP negotiating colleagues to share leverage where we can”.

“PSNC, working with the other national community pharmacy bodies, has put comprehensive data on pharmacies’ COVID-19 costs to [the] government, and we are in discussion about how these should be covered, reconciling against the advance payments that have already been made to contractors,” he explained, adding that this is in addition to “work arguing for increases in flu vaccination fees and negotiating the details of new CPCF services”. 

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2020.20208305

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