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Nurses and pharmacists to prescribe via phone to relieve GP pressures

NHS 24 in Scotland is giving senior pharmacists and nurses extra training to triage and prescribe medicine over the phone without the patient seeing a doctor.

It is hoped the scheme, which will be trialled this winter, will take pressure off overstretched front line services including GP out of hours.

A statement from NHS 24 said the professionals would be operating in their own area of competence and prescribing using strict guidelines.

But they stressed this was for patients with new health problems, not those who had run of of their regular medication.

Under the scheme, patients would be triaged by a pharmacist or nurse who had completed the additional training and any prescription could be picked up from the nearest open pharmacy, ‘saving the patient significant time’.

Workforce shortages have led to out of hours services struggling to fill shifts with some centres having to be closed temporarily.

‘NHS 24 employs a range of health professionals, including senior pharmacists and nursing staff,’ medical director Dr Laura Ryan said

‘During the coming winter, some of these senior clinical staff will have extra training, which allows them to safely triage and prescribe medicines for some patients with new health problems.

‘Due to the individual way we assess people it is not possible to define who exactly would get a prescription as it would be based on the presenting symptoms of the caller.

‘This is in line with current practice in all health boards,’ Dr Ryan added.

She said people with minor ailments should seek help in the first instance from the pharmacy.

Dr Andrew Buist, chair of the BMA’s Scottish GP Committee, said: ‘GP practices have provided phone consultations for many years and where appropriate this can result in patients being diagnosed and prescribed medication.

‘Provided the health professionals working on this NHS 24 service are operating within their clinical competencies this can be a useful additional option for patients to access care.’

The news comes as the NHS in England is due to roll out the online version of its urgent care service NHS 111 to all patients via the next NHS App by the end of the year.

Readers' comments (16)

  • Feels like the end of WW2 when the Nazi regime conscripted pensioners and children to fight the tidal wave of allied troops.Dint work then it will not work now.

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  • The expression ‘dying like flies’ springs to mind somehow. And I suspect that there will still be no ‘corporate manslaughter’ charge?

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  • David Banner

    Like it or not, the old days of lots of GPs employing a few nurses is over.
    In the Brave New World of Primary Care the odd (mainly salaried) GP will oversee an army of noctors.
    This has been the plan all along, but never revealed to the public, who were continuously fed the lie of overpaid fat cat lazy GPs by a complicit press.
    GPs forced to sell out or go bankrupt will have the grim satisfaction in a decade’s time that the old system really was better.....and cheaper.

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  • Grim. It is sad why they would not improve the working conditions to retain and attract staff instead of using 2nd class methods like this for health. It increases the clinical risk to the GPs supervising seeing more difficult cases and clearing up someone else's mess.

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  • You might as well just let people by antibiotics OTC.

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  • Can we please demonstrate a bit of respect for our allied health care professional colleagues? Having worked alongside a number of excellent ANPs and Pharmacists I feel that there needs to be a recognition of the value that they offer. A significant proportion of health complaints don’t require GP input and this seems a sensible way managing them. Comparing NHS 24 to the Nazi party is a new low for this forum

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  • 8:39pm - I suspect you are missing the point. When ‘our allied health care professional colleagues’ have siphoned off all the easy stuff, we will be left with all the serious adversity (and the legal risk for what those esteemed colleagues didn’t recognise). A soupçon of clinical insight and the infamous compulsory GMC (+ MDO) reflection might assist you?

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  • The NHS a failing dictatorial totalitarian state never!!!!

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  • This will mean more work for GPs when the other healthprofessionals double or triple the time involved dealing with a patient because they need your advice to get things right. When it goes wrong, or they are not sure about something, they don't want to take the responsibility you take.

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  • AlanAlmond

    “to relieve GP pressures”
    This is the reason given for many recent reforms.
    This is a lie. Reforms such as this are “to save money”. Pure and simple.

    It is not an insult to allied colleagues, as someone has mistakenly suggested, to point this out.

    Prescribing is one of the most complex activities in medicine. Hiving great chunks of a Drs role to cheaper and less experienced staff is fundamentally a bad idea. I challenge anyone to suggest otherwise. We are doing it because we have to. Because the system is under funded and working conditions for Drs are so bad there is a massive staff retention problem in the U.K.

    Euphemisms, lies and spin become mainstream themes in much of the debate about how to solve the NHS crisis. We are underfunded and asked to do too much. That is the reality.

    Buy into the lie why don’t you. Endorse sticking plasters and ‘make do’ solutions if you like, but we are in a never ending flow of dumbing down our health care system. If you can’t see it you are blind. This isn’t an insult to anyone. It’s just a matter of simple fact.

    I suggest we are better running a rationed/limited/simonised service of high quality than an open, have everything you want when every you want it free for all, that is diluted and dubious ...because it’s easy.

    It’s the easy option every time. Our politicians are weak, and we are too. And forever they get chears from the superficial, confused and those so easily tied up by irrelevances and side issues, people who can’t see the wood for the trees.

    We are constructing a dangerous and inefficient health care system at every turn. Because having a good one is just too much effort.

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