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Pharmacy scheme 'may reduce GP workload'

A scheme to develop ‘healthy living pharmacies’ has found that nearly two-thirds of the patients that came to them for advice would have gone to GP practices instead.

An evaluation by the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee found that of the 1,034 people surveyed about their experiences in a one of the pharmacies in the pilot, 21% said if they hadn’t accessed the support they would not have done anything, while 61% said they would have gone to their GP instead.

Pharmacies in the trial offered NHS services such as weight management, stop smoking programmes, emergency contraception and NHS health checks and had trained ‘health champions’ available to give brief advice on health issues including smoking, activity, sexual health, healthy eating and alcohol.

There are now 478 ‘healthy living pharmacies’ across 28 areas, with the evaluation recommending the scheme should be rolled out in more areas.

The evaluation report said: ‘Teams within healthy living pharmacies engaged with people who would otherwise have done nothing and would not have sought out healthy lifestyle support or advice.

‘60% of individuals participating would have otherwise gone to their GPs, showing that there may be opportunities for community pharmacy to support GP practices in delivering health and wellbeing support, which could reduce the workload burden within GP practices.’

Barbara Parsons, head of pharmacy practice at the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee said: ‘These latest results are certainly encouraging and they show just how hard community pharmacy contractors and their staff have been working to improve the health of their communities.’

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