The DDA is urging practices to lobby MPs about the rural inequality of plans announced today to link the £250 million Winter Access Fund to the community pharmacist consultation service (CPCS).
The plan for improving access for patients and supporting general practice requires practices to sign up to the community pharmacy referral scheme as a condition of receiving the Winter Access funding. The PCN Investment and Impact Fund also incentivises PCNs to develop plans to implement CPCS or increase current referral rates.
Using the service gives a patient a same-day appointment in a community pharmacy and is said to help improve patient experience, as well as directing demand to the most appropriate setting. According to NHS England, some 800 practices are already signed up to provide the service and all practices are encouraged to sign up by 1 December 2021.
In response to the news – announced on day two of the DDA 2021 conference – DDA Chairman Dr Richard West points out that for 15 per cent of the population in 1,000 practices who receive the GP dispensing service there is no local community pharmacy. “Thus they are being discriminated against and disenfranchised from NHS winter funding, and the Investment and Impact Fund,” said Dr West.
He added: “This is a ‘catch 22’ for dispensing doctors and their patients and shows the complete disregard for rural communities in NHS policy.”
Covering November to March 2022, the new £250m Winter Access Fund aims to improve access to a healthcare professional for patients with urgent care needs. In addition, NHS England will work with DHSC to expand pharmacy-led medication supply.