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Patients to get prescription medicines direct from pharmacists under GP recovery plan

Patients to get prescription medicines direct from pharmacists under GP recovery plan
By Jaimie Kaffash
9 May 2023

The GP recovery plan will enable patients to get prescription medicine directly from pharmacists without the need for a GP appointment for seven common conditions including urinary tract infection, NHS England have announced today.

Under the plan, which is being released in full later today, patients will be able to obtain prescription medicine for earache and sore throat from the pharmacist without a GP prescription. It also announced more women will be able to obtain oral contraception from the pharmacist – although it is unclear how this differs from the scheme that is already under way.

Patients will also be able to self-refer for more services, and NHS England said it will more than double the number of people able to access blood pressure checks in their local pharmacy from 900,000 last year to 2.5 million a year.

Writing exclusively for Healthcare Leader‘s sister title Pulse, health minister Neil O’Brien also said that the Government will look to cut the number of QOF indicators and ‘reduce requests to GPs for medical evidence from different arms of government’.

The RCGP welcomed these changes, but said they would not be enough to deliver the promises the Government has made around access.

In a statement, NHS England said: ‘For the first time ever, patients who need prescription medication will be able to get it directly from a pharmacy, without a GP appointment, for seven common conditions including earache, sore throat, or urinary tract infections, thanks to government investment of £645 million over two years to expand community pharmacy services.

‘The actions set out in the plan are expected to free up around 15 million GP appointments over the next two years for patients who need them most.

‘Ending the 8am “rush” for appointments is a key part of the plan, with no patient having to wait on hold only to be told to call back another day for help.’

The plans also commit to:

  • Almost half a million women being able to go into their local pharmacy for oral contraception;
  • Better phone technology, enabling practices to ‘manage multiple calls and redirect them to other specialists, such as pharmacists and mental health practitioners, if more suitable’, as announced yesterday.
  • Extra training provided to practice staff;
  • Half a million people a year being able to self-refer to services including physiotherapy, hearing tests, and podiatry, without seeing their GP first;
  • A change in local authority planning guidance to mean access to primary care for new residential areas are given the same level of importance as education.

Writing for Pulse, Mr O’Brien said: ‘Our plan will also help free up staff time by cutting bureaucracy. 

‘People do not opt for a career in primary care to churn through paperwork and we will take further steps to reduce requests to GPs for medical evidence from different arms of government.

‘We will cut back the number of indicators in QOF and launch a consultation on its future this summer as well as streamlining the Impact and Investment Fund.’

Health secretary Steve Barclay said: ‘This plan will make it easier for people to get GP appointments.

‘By upgrading to digital telephone systems and the latest online tools, by transferring some treatment services to our incredibly capable community pharmacies and by cutting unnecessary paperwork we can free up GPs time and let them focus on delivering the care patients need.

‘Together with further support to increase the workforce, this plan will provide faster and more convenient care.’

However, RCGP chair Professor Kamilla Hawthorne said these initiatives won’t be enough on their own.

She said: ‘We’re… pleased to see there will be a consultation on how giving our pharmacist colleagues greater prescribing powers for minor illnesses could be implemented safely, and in a joined-up way. GPs work closely with pharmacists, often as part of the same practice team, and they already do important work, such as giving advice on minor ailments and undertaking medication reviews, that frees up GPs’ time for patients with complex needs.

‘However, whilst all these initiatives are positive steps, none are the silver bullet that we desperately need to address the intense workload and workforce pressures GPs and their teams are working under – we need thousands more GPs to be able to use these measures effectively to provide the services patients need.’

This article first appeared on our sister title, Pulse.

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