In May 2022, the Fuller Stocktake Report, revealed a genuine and growing discontent with primary care. It highlighted inadequate access to urgent care, impacting GPs’ ability to provide continuity of care to those patients who need it most.’ With an increase in demand for GP appointments —up by half a million every week post-pandemic, due to an aging population and rising demand — a clear challenge for the NHS emerges that needs addressing.
The report also highlighted an opportunity to change, leading to the ‘Primary Care Recovery Plan’ in May 2023. This plan outlined their commitment to 'tackle the 8 am rush and make it easier for patients to get the help they need.' It proposed expanding on pharmacy’s essential role in the community, leveraging their reputation with patients to offer expanded services and provide better access to care.
The launch of Pharmacy First in early 2024 is poised to migrate 7.7 million consultations from GP surgeries to community pharmacies, strategically alleviating the burden on primary care facilities. Recognising the long-standing underutilisation of pharmacists' clinical expertise, the shift to Pharmacy First aligns with a recent public survey indicating that 90% of people are comfortable consulting a community pharmacist for minor illnesses.
However, community pharmacies are feeling the pressure of this increased demand, and finding the time to support the initiative is a pressing concern. Acknowledging the strain on community pharmacies, there is reassuring financial support being made available. An upfront payment for Pharmacy First, coupled with reasonable activity thresholds, promises an injection into pharmacies of just over £17,000 per store in the first year for those delivering the minimum number of clinical pathway consultations.
While the incentive is there, it's crucial to consider several key points to ensure readiness and preparedness to support your pharmacy:
- Training for clinicians: Assess whether your clinicians need additional support or training to deliver the services outlined in Pharmacy First.
- Time to deliver: Determine if your pharmacy needs to invest in tools to release pharmacists' time to deliver services.
- Consultation environment: Ensure your consultation room meets the standard patients expect when receiving services.
- Technology: Verify that you have the necessary technology available to deliver and record consultations easily and accurately.
As technology specialists, we are proud to be among the select few IT suppliers tasked with building these new services within our services platform, HxConsult. HxConsult already supports various services, including CPCS, NMS, Hypertension Case Finding, and Contraception. Alongside Pharmacy First, DMS and Smoking Cessation services will launch soon.
To delve deeper into these considerations and explore the specifics of Pharmacy First, we held a webinar 'Are you services ready?' to provide insights to help your pharmacy prepare for a successful implementation ahead of the early 2024 launch.