A new NHS plan backed by £250 million aims to increase capacity in general practice and encourage GPs to provide more patient consultations face-to-face.
One aspect of the plan is to require GP practices to engage with the NHS Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS), as a condition for receiving the winter access fund.
The National Pharmacy Association is pleased that GPs are being incentivised to engage with the CPCS, which is convenient for patients, frees up GP appointments and makes good use of community pharmacists’ skills to handle minor illnesses.
Talking to Jeremy Vine on BBC Radio 2 today, NPA chair Andrew Lane said: “Everyone in the NHS – pharmacists, nurses, hospital staff and GPs - have worked incredibly hard over the past two years and stepped up to keep people well during the pandemic.
“The way people have accessed primary care has changed, with more people using the phone or going online, but very often people do want to talk a health care professional in person.
“Nearly two million people visit a pharmacy every day, usually without an appointment, to get highly convenient, face-to-face advice and treatment.”
He told the programme that community pharmacists could do even more to take pressure off GPs in the future if the NHS invests in services that incorporate independent prescribing.
Andrew added: “This is all happening at a time when funding for pharmacies is falling and hundreds of pharmacies have closed over the last few years. It’s good if money has been found for general practice, but let’s not forget the rest of the NHS team who are working just as hard on the frontline of the health service.”
Earlier this week, Andrew visited Greenlight Pharmacy in London with Health Secretary Sajid Javid, to discuss what more pharmacies can do to alleviate pressure on the NHS.
It’s estimated that there are nearly 20 million GP appointments each year for minor illnesses that could be handled at the local pharmacy.