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Pharmacies to prescribe for ‘common conditions’ from end of January

Pharmacies to prescribe for ‘common conditions’ from end of January

Community pharmacies across England will be able to opt in to provide a ‘common conditions’ service from 31 January – subject to the right IT support being ready.

Hailed in the primary care recovery plan, the £645m workload shift to pharmacies includes prescribing for seven common conditions.

These are sinusitis; sore throat; earache; infected insect bite; impetigo; shingles; and uncomplicated urinary tract infections in women.

The ‘Pharmacy First’ scheme was supposed to launch before the end of 2023, but NHS England said today this will now happen at the beginning of next year.

The Government said today it is working to amend the clinical triage system so that electronic referrals from NHS 111 and urgent and emergency care settings for the second conditions go to pharmacies signed up to the scheme rather than GP practices.

As part of plans, community pharmacies will be enabled to access and add to patient records currently maintained by GPs.

The Government said today that is is working with IT suppliers ‘to streamline referrals from GPs moving away from NHSmail’.

The Recovery Plan targeted for the measures to free up 10 million GP appointments a year by next winter. However, the BMA’s GP Committee has warned against making antibiotics easier to access.

A consultation has also been launched to enable pharmacy technicians to supply and administer medicines and the responses are currently being reviewed.

What does the agreement look like for pharmacies?

Operating under PGDs, pharmacists will be able to hold consultations with patients and treat sinusitis, sore throat, earache, infected insect bite, impetigo, shingles, and uncomplicated urinary tract infections in women, including by supplying antibiotics where appropriate.

Pharmacies that register for the service by a still-to-be-confirmed deadline ahead of the 31 January launch will receive an upfront payment of £2,000 per pharmacy.

And subject to delivering a minimum number of consultations each month – increasing by staggered amounts throughout the year from one in February to 30 from October – participating pharmacies will receive a monthly fixed payment of £1,000.

In addition to this, they will receive a payment of £15 per consultation, and payment caps will be implemented in the second half of 2024/25.

All pharmacies that register for this advanced service will be required to operate all seven PGDs, with the exception of distance selling pharmacies which will provide six services but not the clinical pathway for acute otitis media (earache).

Once Pharmacy First has been launched, it will be publicised to patients through a government campaign, and medicines will be provided to patients via the normal PGD route of utilising prescription fees and exemptions.

Meanwhile, community pharmacies will also be allowed to initiate contraceptive prescriptions starting next month, NHS England announced today.

Since April this year, community pharmacies have been able to use a patient group direction to manage the ongoing monitoring and supply of repeat oral contraception that has already been initiated by a GP or a sexual health service.

This next stage of the service – under which pharmacists can also initiate prescribing – had been due to launch in September but is now going live from December.

Upon launching it will be available to ‘almost half a million women’, according to NHS England. Once more pharmacies sign up to the scheme, women will be able to use the NHS website to search for their nearest participating pharmacy.

Newly-appointed health secretary Victoria Atkins said: ‘It is a pleasure to start my time as Secretary of State with such a positive example of the Government, NHS and pharmacy sector working together to reach an agreement to improve services and save lives…

‘And for healthcare professionals this will free up GP appointments and make better use of the skills and expertise within community pharmacies.’

Dr Claire Fuller, NHS medical director for primary care and the NHS’ lead GP in England said: ‘Local pharmacies are trusted parts of our communities and GPs and pharmacists work closely together.

‘Pharmacists have always provided continuity and long-term support to patients, families, and carers. So, this is a safe and common-sense way of making NHS services easier for patients to use.’


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

C B 16 November, 2023 10:04 am

Did I read this correctly
-upfront payment of £2,000 per pharmacy.
-£1000 extra per month to see between one to 30 patients per month by October- thats £33 per consultation
-and they will receive a payment of £15 per consultation on top

So pharmacies get £47 pounds per consultation for minor ailments and we get £140 per year to see all the complex??

How on earth is this fair or equitable?

David Church 16 November, 2023 10:08 am

Does not need to be fair or equitable, it is just a vote-gaining gimmick.
Patients need to choose which service to use :
– if they want an antibiotic, go to the pharmacy;
– if they want a ten-minute lecture on why they should not have an antibiotic from a stressed and micromanaged doctor, go to the GP

Tim Atkinson 16 November, 2023 10:27 am

The dumbing down of medicine continues.

Hacked Off 16 November, 2023 10:52 am

Unfortunately the Pharmacists will probably not have to deal with the aftermath of an atypical presentation of unsuspected serious pathology. The complaint and medicolegal sequelae will no doubt still fall on the patient’s GP.

William John Lockley 16 November, 2023 11:56 am

The first question I always ask whenever presented with a new plan to magically reduce or control demand is: ‘Who carries the can when things go wrong?’ — by commission, omission or simply sheer lack of knowledge/experience.

‘And who is expected to pick up the pieces, and how quickly?’ And will they get appropriately remunerated for it? And by whom?

So in this case, who will do these things?

Victoria Cleak 16 November, 2023 12:54 pm

This is utter madness.
At my pharmacy they have a massive queue and no space to see anyone as well as problems accessing drugs.
For patients to be shunted from GP to pharmacies and for them seemingly to be paid more for it can only imply one of two things. Either there is a total lack of ability to add up and understand the basics of GP work or they are working to get rid of GPs. In the long run, these payments will dwindle.

Turn out The Lights 16 November, 2023 1:46 pm

Has a Cluster f+++ written all over it.I give it less than 12 months they cant even substitute drug when supplies a dissapeared.Never mind make a diagnosis and treat.(and take responsibilty).They seem to be the most frequent to say go and se your GP.

Mark Howson 16 November, 2023 2:26 pm

I suspect their default will be to treat even when the condition just needs time. If in any doubt they will refer to the GP with a patient expecting urgent contact. I wonder if they will treat sinusitis with Abx instead of making a proper diagnosis and if really rhinosinusitis then steroid sprays and douches- so many patients have been incorrectly taught they have sinusitis and need Abx for it. The pharmacy first we had around 2015 lasted a year.

Beyond Bewildered 16 November, 2023 7:12 pm

Treatment of sore throat , sinusitis and earache is OTC meds . Infected insect bites are usually hypersensitivity reactions which require OTC meds . UTI in healthy young women is OTC meds . So that leaves shingles which should be significantly reducing in frequency due to vaccination and impetigo. Wow , Exciting new initiative, how long did that take to think up .

Mass populous education and empowerment to take responsibility for self care would be far cheaper and way more effective .

Nothing to do with Rishi s background and overwhelming desire to please then .

SUBHASH BHATT 16 November, 2023 7:55 pm

Sore throat and earache is not a diagnosis. Mother says he is pulling his ears does not turn out to be ear problem. Shingles can be tricky at times. Recurrent uti seen by different pharmacies could ignore more serious conditions.
Don’t make head lines in future with missed serious condition.