Patients told to think ‘pharmacy first’ to reduce pressure on GPs and A&E departments

111 health advisers are now referring patients with minor illnesses to local pharmacies for assessment and treatment.

Kizzy Bass
14 January 2020

Patients with minor illnesses or who need medicine are being referred to pharmacists.

A new scheme introduced in October 2019 has seen over 100,000 patients with minor illnesses or who need medicine urgently being referred to local pharmacies, relieving the pressure on doctors.


The community pharmacist consultation service (CPCS) enables NHS 111 health advisers to refer patients with minor illnesses to their local pharmacy for assessment and treatment with expert pharmacists.

Pharmacists have five years of training, making them highly skilled health professionals and giving them expert knowledge on how to use medicines to support patients.

Clinical advice can be offered for minor conditions such as sore throats and earaches.

The Government says the ‘pharmacy first’ initiative is to prompt more patients into seeking advice from local pharmacists first before requesting an appointment with GPs or attending emergency departments.


Since the scheme began 114,275 patients with minor illnesses or who needed medicines were referred to a local pharmacist

Pharmacy first.

Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I want to see pharmacists ready and able to do much more to help people stay healthy and prevent pressure on hospitals.

“This ‘pharmacy first’ approach makes life easier for patients and will help reduce pressure in the NHS. I want to see more patients with minor illnesses assessed close to home, saving them unnecessary trips to A&E or the GP, and helping people get the care and advice they need quicker.

“Community pharmacy is an integral and trusted part of the NHS and we want every patient with a minor illness to think ‘pharmacy first’.”


Dr Bruce Warner, Deputy Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for NHS England and NHS Improvement, said: “This unlocks the full potential of community pharmacy, giving it a more central role in healthcare and speeding up patients’ access to excellent care and face-to-face consultations.

“The number of referrals from NHS 111 in the first 2 months alone shows how well it is working and reaction has been good, with people telling us they have been satisfied with the service they received.”

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