April 2019 Blog: Have you got mail?

Have you got mail?

The answer should, of course, be yes but where NHSmail is concerned this may not be the case for everybody. If you haven’t got a personal account and access to the pharmacy’s shared mailbox where you are working, you may well find life difficult.

The NHS England team send out all communications to shared NHS mail boxes so this is how you will receive drug alerts, information and service opportunities. As you will know, it’s also a secure mail service used for sharing patient identifiable and sensitive information.

All pharmacies should have a shared mailbox. There is a standardised naming format for the address of the shared mailbox:


This is separate to your personal mailbox and one which multiple members of staff can access. All staff have access to the mailbox and can send emails from this address.

The mailbox will have a nominated shared mailbox owner(s) who is/are responsible for controlling access to the account and undertaking any associated administrative procedures, such as providing access permissions and ensuring staff adhere to the Information Governance Toolkit Guidance.

The shared mailbox must be accessed on a regular basis to ensure all clinical referrals and urgent communications are received and processed in an appropriate and timely manner. At least two members of staff should be regularly accessing the shared mailbox. It is important to have a contingency plan for when these members of staff are both on holiday.

To encourage active usage of NHSmail one of the Quality Payment Gateway criteria states that on the day of the review:

“Pharmacy staff at the pharmacy must be able to send and receive NHSmail from their shared premises NHSmail account, which must have at least two live linked accounts.”

If the mailbox is not accessed, then vital information can be missed:

  • NHS England sends out all communications to pharmacies via NHSmail. If you don’t have an account you will not receive vital updates and alerts. This can lead to operational difficulties and missed opportunities.
  • Pharmacy services such as NUMSAS and DMIRS use PharmOutcomes for digital referrals to community pharmacy, but use NHSmail as the ‘back up’. Where NHSmail is used the mailbox should be regularly checked to pick up referrals in a timely manner.

How often should you check the NHS shared mailbox? I suspect you don’t check it as often as you do your own personal email account! However, the NUMSAS guidance is that checking should be done when a pharmacy opens and before the pharmacy closes each day. Also, I would recommend that you increase this frequency during OOHs periods, such as weekday evenings, weekends, and Bank Holidays. In this way you will minimise surprises when a patient comes in and expects you to know all about their referral.

Every pharmacy is allowed up to three individual NHSmail accounts linked to the pharmacy’s shared NHSmail mailbox. Additional accounts can be requested by contacting the NHS England Area Team, but this will be at their discretion and you will need to give a reason(s) for the request (e.g. extended hours working). For people that already have an NHSmail account there is no problem with adding them to the shared mailbox (the shared mailbox owner can do this). N.B. You do not have to be a pharmacist to have an individual NHSmail account – some pharmacies have allocated one of their individual accounts to a full time technician who can access it regularly and is usually at work when the pharmacist is on holiday or day off.

If you are leaving your Practice you will need to let the shared mailbox owner know, so that you don’t receive emails inappropriately. If you are leaving the profession, or not working any longer in community pharmacy, you will need to contact pharmacyadmin@nhs.net who will mark your account as ‘leaver’ and it will be permanently deleted after 30 days.

Where can you find more information on NHSmail? Have a look at the PSNC website section on NHSmail for a comprehensive overview, answers to technical queries, some FAQs and an insight into some practical considerations you should take account of. Also, don’t forget to check out the Guide for Community Pharmacies using NHSmail.