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NHS England launches ad campaign to redirect patients from GPs to pharmacies

NHS England launches ad campaign to redirect patients from GPs to pharmacies

Patients will be encouraged to visit the pharmacy instead of their GP for minor illnesses in new adverts across TV, radio and social media, NHS England has announced.

The campaign, which was mooted in then-health secretary Therese Coffey’s ‘Plan for Patients’ last year comes as just one in five people would would visit a pharmacy instead of the GP for advice on a minor condition, according to a new poll.

The new ‘movie-inspired’ adverts will highlight how local pharmacies can provide patients with advice – as well as over-the-counter medicines – for minor conditions such as coughs, aches, cystitis and colds.

The new ad campaign is thought to form part of a multi-million pound advertising contract with M&C Saatchi, details of which first emerged at the end of last year. That campaign was also intended to promote remote GP consultations.

According to NHS England data, over 90,000 people a month with minor illnesses now receive a same-day consultations with their local pharmacists after first calling NHS 111 or the GP practice, up by 39% since 2021.

NHS England’s chief pharmaceutical officer David Webb said: ‘Community pharmacies are right in the heart of local communities, and with pharmacists fully trained clinical professionals, they are the perfect place for anybody suffering from a minor illness to get expert advice.’

Mr Webb also highlighted the high levels of public satisfaction with local pharmacy services, with around 90% of people reporting a positive experience, according to Ipsos polling

Dr Dave Triska, a GP in Surrey, said: ‘It sounds like a very expensive way to tell people what they already know and are already declining to do. Pharmacists are freely available now, but they should be compensated for their assets, and we shouldn’t be shifting the unfunded workload to them – and that is based on accepting that people would do this. My experience so far, in terms of the paid referral scheme, is that patients end up coming back to us anyway.’

NHS England has also outlined plans to expand the scope of services offered by community pharmacies, including a new hypertension service and over-the-counter contraception.

Meanwhile, a recent cancer awareness drive involved a double-decker bus travelling around the UK promoting early diagnosis and knowledge of symptoms.



Please note, only GPs are permitted to add comments to articles

Some" Bloke 27 February, 2023 12:09 pm

of cause! I should have seen this coming. Because there is an untapped welth of expertise in the community, waiting to heal our aging multi- morbid population.
it will work like this: patient calls 999- gets redirected to GP, from where- of cause to pharamcy. If Community Pharmacist is overwhelmed- they will call upon the support of health coaches, social workers, cleaners and retired biology teachers to make it all good again. Simples.

Anonymous 27 February, 2023 12:31 pm

This is just hilarious.

Referral from 111 to GP then to pharmacy then back to GP then to website?

Have we completely lost the plot?

Decorum Est 27 February, 2023 1:38 pm

…lots of the pharmacies are closing (apparently their contract with NHS doesn’t cover their costs).

SUBHASH BHATT 27 February, 2023 1:39 pm

If patient can understand what is a minor illness then you don’t need consultation from any one.
Why is every one trying to block access to general practice?

Iain Chalmers 27 February, 2023 3:09 pm

My daughter is recently qualified pharmacist and specifically chose not to do medicine.

I suspect her line will be see GP when confronted with something she neither wanted or was specifically trained for.

Nick Mann 27 February, 2023 4:45 pm

Paradoxical campaigns from NHSE: “See your GP with any minor niggles because they could be cancer” against “Your pharmacist is trained to manage and treat minor illnesses so don’t see your GP”
Does it need a doctor to point out that most serious conditions and cancers present with ‘minor’ symptoms which our medical training and experience serve to differentiate? …Is it your piles again, sir?
In my experience, few patients see GP when they know they just have a cold. It’s usually a secondary concern.
I’d be interested in a field study with secret shoppers to see how many pharmacy visits it would take to pick up my pancreatic cancer, myeloma or TB.

Keith M Laycock 27 February, 2023 4:56 pm

“The beginning of the end or the end of the beginning” – whichever it is, it is a travesty & that’s without the obvious conflict of interest of pharmacists advising the use of, and then selling, essentially useless over OTC ‘Healthcare’ products.

SUBHASH BHATT 27 February, 2023 6:01 pm

True nick.I fully agree with you.

Truth Finder 28 February, 2023 3:50 pm

The pharmacist will say “see your GP”. People are fed up with the GP bashing and bug passing and safeguarding expectations. We do not have any spy cameras in every household or a crystal ball.

Imogen Bloor 2 March, 2023 7:20 pm

Agree with Keith Laycock’s point about COI. Whilst they can be fantastic, Community pharmacist are running a business which relies in part on selling OTC medication,. Pharmacists can & do sell all sorts of things for self limiting symptoms; they may steer a patient to a high cost branded products vs lower cost generic eg: ibuprofen ( I’ve witnessed this many times!) ) or suggest items which GPs can no longer prescribe due to lack of evidence of benefit., or which are effectively placebo. This in turn alters patients expectations that there is a medicine for everything. Most of us will have had somewhat surreal conversations like : ‘no I can’t prescribe that for you, because there’s no proof it works, but you can go & buy it from a chemist, if you think it will make you feel better’ On the other hand, its very helpful that conditions such as thrush/ringworm/headlice etc can be effectively and appropriately managed by a community pharmacist. and can by pass a GP and this probably includes contraception too.