Extension of NHS 111 referral pilot

Extension of NHS 111 referral pilot

November 22, 2018

Following a successful initial pilot in the North East, NHS England is now extending the Digital Minor Illness Referral Service (DMIRS) pilot to London, Devon (and eventually Somerset) and the East Midlands.

Part of a work programme under the Pharmacy Integration Fund (PhIF), the aim is to integrate community pharmacy into NHS 111 referral pathways for people suffering from minor conditions. It is hoped that this will increase capacity and relieve pressure on existing urgent care services, deliver care closer to home in the community and potentially result in savings for the NHS.

The service enables NHS 111 call handlers to digitally refer patients requiring advice and/or treatment for low acuity conditions to community pharmacies for face-to-face consultations. The conditions eligible for the service include rashes, constipation, diarrhoea, vaginal discharge, sore eye, mouth ulcer, failed contraception, vomiting, scabies and ear wax.

All pilots are currently set to run until 31st March 2019 with the evaluation timed to inform any future commissioning for 2019/20.

Commenting on the service, Dr Nikki Kanani, Acting Director of Primary Care, NHS England said:

“This new scheme offers patients a new option, to be given a booked consultation on the same day with a pharmacist in their local community. Using a community pharmacy as the first point of call for clinical advice for minor health concerns will speed up access to excellent care for patients, help to free up GP time and reduce non-emergency A&E visits.”

Sanjay Ganvir, Superintendent Pharmacist at Green Light Pharmacy Group and Chair, Camden & Islington Local Pharmaceutical Committee said:

“The community pharmacy network is the biggest walk-in service in the NHS so it’s great to see the NHS using the huge potential of community pharmacies to help to ensure that GP and A&E care will be more available for those who need it most. Pharmacies are located at sites that are convenient for the public: in the high street, supermarkets, health centres, council estates and other residential areas – so hugely accessible for the public.”

Alastair Buxton, Director of NHS Services, at PSNC said:

“Management of minor conditions has always been an important part of the community pharmacy service, so it is great to see this service integrating that pharmacy care within the wider urgent and emergency care system. PSNC recently referred to this service as an example of how community pharmacy could be used to better meet patients’ needs in our response to the NHS long-term plan consultation.

We are particularly pleased to see that the original pilot has been used as the basis for rolling out this service across other areas. We hope that, in time, it will be made available across the whole of England.”

How has it worked in the North East?

Over 390 pharmacies across Durham, Darlington, Tees, Northumberland and Tyne and Wear are currently taking part and 11,900 referrals have been safely made to community pharmacists.

An assessment of the North East scheme found that within the pilot area, minor illness cases being referred to GPs from NHS 111 fell from 70% to 40%. Fifty per cent of those people referred were managed by the pharmacist in the pharmacy; six per cent were completed by the pharmacist over the phone; while 22% were signposted to other services in the community, or referred for further help to a GP or A&E.

Learning from the North East for other pilot areas

Community pharmacy teams working in areas where DMIRS has already gone live have adopted new working practices, particularly checking their NHSmail inbox regularly so that they are aware of referrals received from NHS 111.

Pharmacy teams have also made sure they are attuned to red flags symptoms, including the signs of sepsis and meningitis. PSNC’s minor illnesses resource hub contains links to a range of resources that can help pharmacy teams providing DMIRS.

 



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