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NHS ad campaign to redirect patients from GPs to pharmacies launches

NHS ad campaign to redirect patients from GPs to pharmacies launches
By Eliza Parr
27 February 2023

Patients will be encouraged to visit the pharmacy instead of their GP for minor illnesses in new adverts across TV, radio and social media, NHS England has announced.

The campaign, which was mooted in then-health secretary Therese Coffey’s ‘Plan for Patients’ last year comes as just one in five people would would visit a pharmacy instead of the GP for advice on a minor condition, according to a new poll.

The new ‘movie-inspired’ adverts will highlight how local pharmacies can provide patients with advice – as well as over-the-counter medicines – for minor conditions such as coughs, aches, cystitis and colds.

The new ad campaign is thought to form part of a multi-million pound advertising contract with M&C Saatchi, details of which first emerged at the end of last year. That campaign was also intended to promote remote GP consultations.

According to NHS England data, over 90,000 people a month with minor illnesses now receive a same-day consultations with their local pharmacists after first calling NHS 111 or the GP practice, up by 39% since 2021.

NHS England’s chief pharmaceutical officer David Webb said: ‘Community pharmacies are right in the heart of local communities, and with pharmacists fully trained clinical professionals, they are the perfect place for anybody suffering from a minor illness to get expert advice.’

Mr Webb also highlighted the high levels of public satisfaction with local pharmacy services, with around 90% of people reporting a positive experience, according to Ipsos polling

Dr Dave Triska, a GP in Surrey, said: ‘It sounds like a very expensive way to tell people what they already know and are already declining to do. Pharmacists are freely available now, but they should be compensated for their assets, and we shouldn’t be shifting the unfunded workload to them – and that is based on accepting that people would do this. My experience so far, in terms of the paid referral scheme, is that patients end up coming back to us anyway.’

NHS England has also outlined plans to expand the scope of services offered by community pharmacies, including a new hypertension service and over-the-counter contraception.

Meanwhile, a recent cancer awareness drive involved a double-decker bus travelling around the UK promoting early diagnosis and knowledge of symptoms.

This story first appeared on our sister title, Pulse.

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