Pharmacy First scheme easing NHS pressure with over 100,000 referrals since launch
More than 100,000 patients have been referred to pharmacists through a scheme intended to ease the pressure on surgeries and hospitals.
Some 114,275 patients with minor illnesses or urgent medication needs were seen under the NHS Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS), the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said.
They were given same-day referrals to their local pharmacist for assessment and treatment after calling the NHS 111 helpline.
Call handlers dealt with 64,067 requests for urgent medication, for conditions including diabetes and asthma, during the first 10 weeks of the service launching.
And advice was given to 50,208 people with minor illnesses such as sore throats and earaches.
The scheme, which began in October and has been called “a fantastic success”, aims to reduce the number of GP and A&E visits by treating people in the community.
The latest NHS performance figures show a record number of attendances at A&E departments, ambulance callouts and NHS 111 requests for help in December.
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.
“Thousands of patients receiving same-day advice from highly-skilled pharmacists is exactly what we need. Community pharmacy is an integral and trusted part of the NHS and we want every patient with a minor illness to think ‘pharmacy first’.”
The service has seen 10,610 pharmacies sign up, and is funded through the £2.592 billion per year agreed in the five-year community pharmacy contractual framework.
Dr Bruce Warner, deputy chief pharmaceutical officer at NHS England and NHS Improvement, added: “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.”
Progress will continue to be monitored and, if it continues to be a success, is expected to expand to include referrals from GPs by the end of 2020.
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