NHS England have announced that from 18th June 2024, clinical IT system suppliers will commence the roll out of a new feature enabling Pharmacy First referrals from general practices using EMIS Web Local Services or PharmRefer to flow into the workflows in pharmacy clinical systems. Referrals will be received into the same IT system workflow as Pharmacy First referrals from NHS 111 telephony and 111 online.

GP practices that do not use EMIS Web Local Services or PharmRefer will continue to refer using NHSmail.

Community pharmacy teams do not need to take any action to enable this functionality, as it will be switched on by clinical system suppliers. Suppliers should advise their roll-out dates directly to their customers.

This is an important first step to implement the national Booking and Referral Standard (BaRS) which should streamline referral management, reduce burden and improve patient safety and experiences by simplifying the referral pathway from general practice into community pharmacy clinical systems.

The implementation of BaRS will:

Enable formal referrals as opposed to informal signposting;
Increase visibility of referrals, reducing the likelihood of referrals being missed; and
Ensure referral information appears in the Pharmacy First IT system workflow, taking away the need to copy and paste from emails/PDFs.

Pharmacy team should continue to monitor NHSmail for all other referrals. Email remains a business continuity solution for Pharmacy First referrals from both GP practices and NHS 111 if the integrated referral method fails.

In time, the BaRS IT standard will also support improved electronic referrals flowing from community pharmacy IT systems to general practice systems.

System supplier switching

If a pharmacy owner wants to change their Pharmacy First IT system supplier, the process to change the system to receive NHS 111 and general practice referrals is as follows:

Pharmacies initiate the change by liaising with their preferred system supplier to start the onboarding process and complete any required training.
The system supplier will update the Directory of Services (DoS) ‘Switch List’ with the ODS code of the community pharmacy, with a proposed switch date.
The supplier will advise the pharmacy of the date the switch will happen. Any queries can be directed to the supplier.
The DoS and national BaRS teams will review the Switch Log and act on the switch on the proposed switch date.
From the switch date, the pharmacy will begin to receive NHS111 and general practice referrals into the new system.

Switches are subject to pharmacy meeting all criteria, including having a shared NHSmail address and being registered for Pharmacy First.

Further information, including NHS resources, can be found at our BaRS webpage.

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