Pharmacists gain power: Chemists will prescribe additional drugs and treat a wider range of diseases to free up GPs for face-to-face appointments
- Health Secretary Sajid Javid considers empowering pharmacists in their role, including prescribing drugs reserved exclusively for doctors
- His plan is to match Scotland’s ‘Pharmacy First’ scheme
- It aims to spread the workload of GPs by enabling pharmacists to treat diseases such as sore throat
- The move is likely to be welcomed by pharmacists, who have pushed for a bigger role in community health care
Pharmacists will become the first point of contact for most minor illnesses under plans being considered by Sajid Javid to free up GPs to treat more serious cases.
The Health Secretary’s battle plan for improving access to primary care physicians includes options to give local chemists more powers to treat a wide variety of minor complaints.
This will likely include giving them the power to prescribe some drugs that are currently reserved solely for physicians.
A health source said Mr Javid wanted to see a ‘significantly’ bigger role for pharmacists, adding: ‘He is looking at a rapid expansion of the role they play.
‘He is curious if they can do more in the area of prescribing.
‘It’s about distributing the workload and freeing up GPs for more complex cases.’
Health Secretary Sajid Javid, pictured with National Pharmacy Association president Andrew Lane, left, at Keencare Pharmacy in south-west London for his flu shot, considering pharmacists as the first point of contact for most minor illnesses
The source said the health secretary was investigating Scotland’s ‘Pharmacy First’ scheme, which will allow pharmacies to treat a wide range of common ailments, from earaches and sore throats to hay fever and cystitis.
The ministers hope that the scheme will make it easier for patients with mild conditions to receive faster treatment and free up GPs.
Today, Mr Javid wrote in the Mail: ‘Another way we are going to ensure more time is spent on patients is by spreading the workload.
“I want every practice to use the NHS Community Pharmacy Consultation service so that our brilliant community pharmacists can do more in terms of prescribing.
‘I am asking my department to work with the NHS and look at a ‘Pharmacy First’ scheme for England so that pharmacists can provide treatment for specific conditions such as sore throats, without patients having to see their GP, building on pilot programs in England and much as they already do in Scotland.’
The move is likely to be welcomed by pharmacists, who have pushed for a bigger role in community health care.
At present, about 800 GP practices are affiliated with the Consultation Service for Pharmacists, which refers patients with a limited number of minor conditions to their local pharmacy.
The new battle plan to improve access to primary care physicians gives pharmacists the power to prescribe a number of drugs currently reserved for physicians. Javid, pictured right, met community pharmacist Cynthia Langworth at Keencare Pharmacy in London
Launched in 2019, the scheme has so far resulted in 64,000 referrals, freeing up valuable time for GPs.
But Scotland’s ‘Pharmacy First’ program goes much further.
Patients living north of the border are advised to visit a local pharmacy for advice and treatment for all minor illnesses and health problems ranging from back pain and verrucas to eczema and allergies.
Patients can go to any pharmacy for advice and in most cases do not need to make an appointment.
Those who need privacy can obtain advice in special consultation rooms.
At present, pharmacists can advise and prescribe medicines, including antibiotics, if needed, but patients with unusual or severe symptoms are referred to their GP or local hospital
Pharmacists have the authority to give advice and prescribe medicines, including antibiotics, if necessary.
However, patients with unusual or severe symptoms are referred to their primary care physician or local hospital.
As with general practitioners, pharmacists keep track of all treatments.
A health source said Mr Javid would consider a wholesale repeat or adjustment of the Scottish schedule in England.