Patients will be referred to their local pharmacist by GPs, A&E and NHS 111.
Up to 6% of all GP consultations could instead be addressed at a patients’ local pharmacy as part of a new deal outlined by the Health and Social Care Secretary.
Patients calling NHS 111 about minor conditions, such as earache or sore throat, will be offered an appointment with the new NHS Community Pharmacist Consultation Service.
Over the next 5 years, patients will also be referred to the service from GPs and A&E – patients will still have an option to decline the referral.
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, explained, “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.”
Expanding the community pharmacy role.
Focusing on prevention, urgent care and medicine safety, the framework gives £13 billion to expand the community pharmacy role, while supporting the new services being introduced over the 5-year contract.
Pharmacists will be able to offer patients recently discharged from hospital more advice and support, including helping with repeat prescriptions without having to return to the GP.
“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,” Professor Stokes-Lampard stated. “In doing so, they are vital to delivering patient care in the community and alleviating pressures in general practice.”
‘Not a substitutes for GPs’.
The government has also highlighted other areas in which the community pharmacy role could be expanded over the next 5 years.
These include; spotting the early signs of sepsis, annual diabetic foot and eye assessments, and identify the warning signs of suicide.
“However, whilst this new scheme is welcome,” Professor Stokes-Lampard warns, “it is not a silver bullet to addressing the pressures in primary care. Pharmacists – or any other primary care professional – must not be seen as substitutes for GPs, so efforts to recruit more family doctors, retain the existing GP workforce, and make it easier to return to practice after a career break or period working abroad must continue and be redoubled.”