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Community pharmacy

Digital hospital-to-pharmacy referral service launch delayed by COVID-19

Negotiations on the introduction of the Discharge Medicines Service have not progressed since March 2020 meaning it will miss its expected July 2020 launch.

Open access article

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has made this article free to access in order to help healthcare professionals stay informed about an issue of national importance.

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alastair buxton

Source: Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee

Alastair Buxton, director of NHS Services at the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, said discussions about the service were restarting

Plans for hospitals to digitally refer discharged patients to community pharmacies across England have been put on hold as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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.

However, the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) confirmed to The Pharmaceutical Journal on 15 June 2020 that the introduction of the service has been delayed.

Alastair Buxton, director of NHS Services at the PSNC, said: “Due to the impact of COVID-19 and the need to focus on immediate issues linked to the pandemic, negotiations on the DMS have not progressed since March [2020].

“This work, combined with the need to give contractors sufficient time to prepare for the launch of any new national service, means the DMS can’t now launch in July [2020].”

However, he added that the PSNC was now restarting discussions about the DMS with NHS England and NHS Improvement and the Department of Health and Social Care, and were keen to see the service rolled out “as soon as possible”.

“The DMS will help patients being discharged from hospital with changes to their prescribed medicines,” he continued.

Simon Dukes, PSNC chief executive. added during a press briefing on 3 June 2020 that he was also keen for the service to start as it “would have huge benefits for the community and for society”.

“I do think it needs to be thought out and started, and if we have positive discussions about that with NHS England and NHS Improvement, we will give contractors as much notice as possible before the introduction of that as a new service,” he added.

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.

It builds on the transfer of care around medicines scheme, which has been running in parts of the country since 2014, and 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 delay to the DMS launch follows the postponement of other clinical services set out in the community pharmacy contract.

On 19 March 2020, a letter from Keith Ridge, the chief pharmaceutical officer for England, announced that the hepatitis C testing service would be delayed from April 2020 “for at least three months”.

The clinical pilots for blood pressure testing, smoking cessation support and point of care testing for group A Streptococcus were also said to have been “postponed until further notice”.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2020.20208066

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