Health Secretary announces pharmacy first scheme to relieve pressure on NHS

Pharmacists will be asked to contact patients discharged from hospitals to advise over medications in a bid to relieve the burden on the NHS.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock (pictured) announced on Sunday that the scheme will be introduced in England in July as part of a pharmacy first programme.

It is hoped thousands of unnecessary readmissions could be averted by getting pharmacists to give advice to discharged patients, particularly on side-effects and complications.

Pharmacists welcomed the ability to play a greater role but warned they must be properly recompensed for the additional workload.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said the fees were still “under discussion” between Government officials, NHS England and the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee.

But she said the cash would come from a £13 billion pot for community funding announced last year.

Robbie Turner, a director at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said it is a “really exciting opportunity” for pharmacists to aid patients that “should be welcomed” but warned the funding must be sufficient.

He added: “Pharmacists working in the community are under increasing pressure to support patients and any service that’s introduced by the NHS needs to be sustainable for people working in pharmacies.

“It’s important that any service that’s introduced into community pharmacies allows the pharmacists and their teams the time to be able to deliver that high quality treatment all pharmacists want to deliver.”

The Department of Health said a recent audit showed 79% of patients were being discharged from hospital having been prescribed at least one new medication.

From the summer, hospitals will send a “digital referral” to pharmacies to let them know there is a patient they should contact to provide support to.

Mr Hancock said: “I want all patients to get the right care close to home and to avoid any unnecessary visits to hospital.

“To help do that I’ve begun the pharmacy first programme, asking pharmacies to do more to support people in the community, as they do in other countries like France.

“It’s good for patients and great for the NHS because it reduces pressure on GPs and hospitals.”

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