Patients and the general public access community pharmacies for self-care advice and to purchase over the counter medicines. It is however difficult sometimes for patients to know when it might be more appropriate to access GP advice. It is estimated that 6% of all GP consultations (20.4 million appointments per year) could be safely transferred to a community pharmacy. There is good evidence to suggest that the advice provided by community pharmacists as part of a consultation about symptoms of minor illnesses will result in the same outcome as if the patient went to see their GP or attended an emergency department.
The purpose of the General Practice Digital Minor Illness Referral Service (GP DMIRS) is to reduce the burden on General Practices by referring patients requiring advice and treatment for certain low acuity conditions from a GP practice to a community pharmacist. Its aim is to ensure that patients have access to the same levels of care, close to home and with a self-care emphasis.
Aim of the service
The aim is for community pharmacists to work closely with the local GP teams to relieve pressure on GP appointments and create some additional capacity for the practice to book patients into appointments that might otherwise have been filled that day or in a few days’ time depending on the nature of the symptoms the patient reports.
The aim is also to identify ways that individual patients can self-manage their health more effectively with the support of community pharmacists and to recommend solutions that could encourage the use of pharmacy as a first point of contact for minor illness symptoms in the future.
The service is intended to be a high quality and effective clinical urgent care service provided by community pharmacy through a referral from a GP practice enabling convenient and easy access to a healthcare professional for patients
What the service will provide
The agreement is for the pharmacy to provide self-care advice and support. This will include information to all people referred to the pharmacy by the GP practice with a specified low acuity condition.
The end points of the consultation may include:
- advice given only
- advice and the sale of an OTC medicine
- advice and referral into a local Minor Ailments Scheme (where one exists). Dependent on local commissioning arrangements other options may be available e.g. a Patient Group Direction
- advice and support to access an urgent appointment with their GP
- advice and signpost on to another service
How to access the service
Only patients who have been referred from their GP practice are eligible to receive advice and treatment under this service.
An electronic transfer of data to support the referral will be sent from the General Practice to a local community pharmacy. Across practices in England there are now GP reception teams that work with care navigators to support the process of booking patients to see the most appropriate member of the multidisciplinary team.
Patients who wish to consult their GP or other health care provider for their condition are still free to do so.
The NHS England GP DMIRS pilot will run from 3 June 2019 to 31st March 2020.
In the event that the pilot is extended, it will be assumed that pharmacy contractors are continuing to provide GP DMIRS unless they opt-out by following the process detailed in the run-up to the extension. This does not prevent pharmacists from terminating earlier, as set out in Section 4 of the SLA.
Register to provide the service
If you're one of the specific pharmacies within the specified Primary Care Network (PCN) piloting this service and you intend to provide the service between the local start date and 31st March 2020, you must register your pharmacy’s details with NHS England first by completing the form on the link below.
This is an online signup so there's no need to return a signed SLA to NHS England.
Service Level Agreement and Service Specifications