The Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for Scotland Rose Marie Parr has today written to inform NHS Boards and community pharmacy contractors about the rollout of NHS Near Me to community pharmacy in Scotland in the near future.
It was previously announced in March this year that the NHS Near Me software would be rolled out across Scotland this summer.
Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the use of this platform has greatly increased across the NHS and in particular in GP practices in primary care and hospital outpatient clinics.
Near Me is a tool for healthcare professionals and it is for them to exercise their professional judgement to decide how and when to use It can be used in providing NHS services including medicines advice, medication reviews, minor ailment consultations (shortly to move to Pharmacy First), smoking cessation services and independent prescribing consultations.
In the letter to key community pharmacy stakeholders today Rose Marie Parr commented:
“For both pharmacists and patients a Near Me video consultation will reduce potential exposure to COVID-19 by avoiding the need for a person to come into a pharmacy. Even when a medicine supply is needed, the time spent in the pharmacy can be minimised if the consultation has been provided, in advance, by video.
“All Health Boards are being asked to roll out the use of NHS Near Me to community pharmacy in the coming weeks. There are a number of steps to enabling the technology to allow all community pharmacists to opt into using Near Me for their normal patient Guidance is currently being developed to support this. The guidance will cover both the technical set-up, processes for use and appropriate clinical use of Near Me within community pharmacy.
“The aim of this testing is to refine the clinical aspects of the guidance for pharmacies using the outcomes of the tests of change, before making Near Me available to all community pharmacies in Scotland from mid-June.
“In the meantime community pharmacies should start to prepare for Near Me by assessing their technical readiness and undertaking training.
Test locations have been agreed for community pharmacies in NHS Highland, NHS Forth Valley, NHS Tayside and NHS Dumfries and Galloway. These test sites will commence in the first two weeks of June with 44 community pharmacies taking part in total. The purpose of the tests of change is to understand the opportunities of using Near Me in community pharmacies such as:
- The types of services that can be delivered effectively.
- How to manage Near Me alongside current workload and workflow.
- Patient acceptability in community pharmacy.
- Opportunities for development.
“We started with a problem”, Clare Morrison, explained in a previous interview. “NHS Highland is a remote and rural health board, it covers 40% of the landmass of Scotland yet only has 8% of the population so it is a large area which is sparsely populated, and this really brings a couple of problems”;
“Recruiting pharmacists to work in rural areas like that is really hard and yet we do recruit some, but the nature of the workload means they spend a lot of time driving between communities…which really is such a waste of clinical capacity at a time when we are stretched as a profession.”
NHS Highland’s senior clinical quality lead and NHS Near Me lead outlined a journey that began with securing charity funding for the new venture from the Health Foundation in January 2017, followed by three months of planning and then small-scale testing.
Ms Morrison reflected: “It seems quite strange to me now looking back, but at the time what we were doing just had not been done before, that remote access in and remote consulting. Now to me, this feels routine but back then it was really, really new.”
This circular is being shared under the Open Government Copyright licence.