More than two million consultations have taken place with the NHS Pharmacy First Scotland service since its launch in July 2020.
The innovative NHS community pharmacy service has helped see patients quickly and relieve pressure on A&E units and GP surgeries by sparing the NHS 200,000 avoidable appointments for the treatment of urinary tract and skin infections in the last year.
The NHS Pharmacy First network of more than 1,200 community pharmacies are the first port of call for minor ailments and common clinical conditions.
The service provides free access to a consultation with an appropriately qualified member of the pharmacy team who provides advice on self-care, referral to another part of the NHS if they feel it is necessary and, if appropriate, will provide treatment. The community pharmacist can also treat certain conditions such as urinary tract infections, shingles and impetigo without the need for a prescription or to see a doctor. This is part of a co-ordinated series of measures to improve patient care and help reduce demand on A&E.
Pharmacists in the network have taken more than 200,000 appointments in the last year which would otherwise have gone to GP surgeries or hospital A&E departments.
Since its launch at the height of the pandemic, only 4 per cent of patients needed to be referred on to another healthcare professional, such as a GP or hospital unit. The majority were handled by the pharmacy team, advice on self-care or with treatment.
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf said: “Community pharmacists are playing a fantastic role in ensuring that millions of people have their minor ailment needs addressed quickly, without needing to go to a GP or hospital. They are a prime example of getting the right care in the right place at the right time.
“This is particularly helpful as our NHS faces one of the most difficult winters in its history, with the NHS Pharmacy First service helping to relieve some of the current pressures faced by emergency departments. As community pharmacy staff continue to give care and advice during the busy winter period, please continue to be kind and patient.
“The Scottish Government introduced the NHS Pharmacy First service, backed by £10 million of investment. As part of the NHS Recovery Plan we will look to expand the range of common clinical conditions that can be treated by community pharmacists, avoiding unnecessary GP and out of hours appointments.
“We have also committed to establishing a community pharmacy hospital discharge and medicines reconciliation service to help speed up the process for people being discharged from hospital. New digital solutions such as ePrescribing and eDispensing will make prescribing paperless and free up capacity for healthcare professionals to see more patients, while making it easier for the public to access their medicines quickly and safely.”