Patients will be able to get prescription medicine direct from a pharmacist without a GP appointment for seven common conditions, according to the primary care recovery plan published this week.
The Delivery Plan for Recovering Access to Primary Care, hopes to tackle ‘the 8am rush’ and make it ‘easier and quicker’ for patients to get the help they need from primary care. It includes several measures on access, including updating GP telephone systems.
A key proposal is that pharmacists will be able to supply prescription only medicines for seven conditions from the end of 2023, under the Pharmacy First scheme. These conditions include sinusitis, sore throat, earache, infected insect bite, impetigo, shingles, and uncomplicated urinary tract infections in women.
There are also plans to expand the pharmacy oral contraception and blood pressure services this year. Community pharmacy started to manage ongoing oral contraception for women just this April. Extending both these services is subject to a Department of Health and Social Care-led (DHSC) consultation.
The plan said these measures could save around 10 million appointments in general practice per year.
The Government has said a total of £645m will be ploughed into community pharmacy to introduce this new scheme.
In the plan, NHS England said: ‘We recognise this requires new funding, which would mark the next step in the journey we started in 2019 to make better use of the clinical skills in community pharmacy teams and better integrate community pharmacies into the NHS by making them the first port of call for minor common conditions.’
As part of this new funding, the DHSC said it would invest to ‘significantly improve’ the digital infrastructure between general practice and community pharmacy, including allowing pharmacists to enter details into GP patient records.
It said: ‘NHS England will work with community pharmacy suppliers and general practice IT suppliers to develop and deliver interoperable digital solutions. These will streamline referrals, provide additional access to relevant clinical information from the GP record, and share structured updates quickly and efficiently following a pharmacy consultation back into the GP patient record.
‘These IT improvements will improve existing and future services; for example, by allowing GP patient records to be updated following supply of oral contraception or a blood pressure consultation in community pharmacy.’
The National Association of Primary Care’s president and community pharmacist, Professor Ash Soni, said: ‘Recognising community pharmacies as being at the heart of a community and an essential part of a neighbourhood is an extremely positive step.
‘With a suitable financial investment pharmacies, with their pharmacists and support staff, can provide an excellent first point of contact for a large number of people. This will help to relieve some of the significant pressure on other parts of the system and enable them to support the work of GPs and A&E departments.’