The Department of Health and Social Care has announced that same-day pharmacy consultations will now be offered to patients with minor issues.
The new NHS Community Pharmacist Consultation Service will offer local pharmacy appointments to anyone calling NHS 111 about the minor conditions, such as earache or a sore throat.
If testing is successful, GPs and A&E will also start to refer patients to the service over the next five years, hopefully relieving pressures on doctors and hospitals.
One of the aims is to make better use of pharmacists’ skills, as pharmacists receive five years of training, giving them expert knowledge of medicines and drug interactions.
Announcing the plan, health and social care secretary, Matt Hancock, said:
“Pharmacists are integral to community health and I want to move towards the French model, where they offer a wider range of services and play a stronger role in the community.
“Every day more than a million people use our community pharmacies in England and we want to support our incredible pharmacists to unlock their full potential, helping them offer more health advice and support more patients as part of our Long Term Plan for the NHS.
“Community pharmacies are a vital and trusted part of our NHS, and this five-year deal will ensure more people get support in the most appropriate setting, which in turn helps relieve pressure on the wider health service.”
Areas the framework will expand over the next five years include online training for all pharmacists to spot the early signs of sepsis, developing and testing an early detection service to help identify people who may have undiagnosed cardiovascular disease and checking all patients with diabetes who come to the pharmacy to ensure they have had their annual foot and eye check.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, chair of the Royal College of GPs responded, saying that “Introducing a greater variety of roles into the general practice team and making the best possible use of primary care professionals in the community is key to helping relieve the intense resource and workforce pressures facing GPs, and ultimately ensuring our patients get the care they need when they need it.”
She went on to explain that “Pharmacists are highly-trained healthcare professionals who already advise patients with a host of minor illnesses that don’t necessarily need the input of a GP, recommend suitable over-the-counter medication and self-care treatments, and play an important role in medication management on a daily basis. In doing so, they are vital to delivering patient care in the community and alleviating pressures in general practice.”
It’s estimated that up to 6% of all GP consultations could be safely transferred to a community pharmacy, which is up to 20 million GP appointments per year.