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Patients to get prescription medicines direct from pharmacists under GP recovery plan

Patients to get prescription medicines direct from pharmacists under GP recovery plan

The GP recovery plan will enable patients to get prescription medicine directly from pharmacists without the need for a GP appointment for seven common conditions including urinary tract infection, NHS England have announced today.

Under the plan, which is being released in full later today, patients will be able to obtain prescription medicine for earache and sore throat from the pharmacist without a GP prescription. It also announced more women will be able to obtain oral contraception from the pharmacist – although it is unclear how this differs from the scheme that is already under way.

Patients will also be able to self-refer for more services, and NHS England said it will more than double the number of people able to access blood pressure checks in their local pharmacy from 900,000 last year to 2.5 million a year.

Writing exclusively for Pulse, health minister Neil O’Brien also said that the Government will look to cut the number of QOF indicators and ‘reduce requests to GPs for medical evidence from different arms of government’.

The RCGP welcomed these changes, but said they would not be enough to deliver the promises the Government has made around access.

In a statement, NHS England said: ‘For the first time ever, patients who need prescription medication will be able to get it directly from a pharmacy, without a GP appointment, for seven common conditions including earache, sore throat, or urinary tract infections, thanks to government investment of £645 million over two years to expand community pharmacy services.

‘The actions set out in the plan are expected to free up around 15 million GP appointments over the next two years for patients who need them most.

‘Ending the 8am “rush” for appointments is a key part of the plan, with no patient having to wait on hold only to be told to call back another day for help.’

The plans also commit to:

  • Almost half a million women being able to go into their local pharmacy for oral contraception;
  • Better phone technology, enabling practices to ‘manage multiple calls and redirect them to other specialists, such as pharmacists and mental health practitioners, if more suitable’, as announced yesterday.
  • Extra training provided to practice staff;
  • Half a million people a year being able to self-refer to services including physiotherapy, hearing tests, and podiatry, without seeing their GP first;
  • A change in local authority planning guidance to mean access to primary care for new residential areas are given the same level of importance as education.

Writing for Pulse, Mr O’Brien said: ‘Our plan will also help free up staff time by cutting bureaucracy. 

‘People do not opt for a career in primary care to churn through paperwork and we will take further steps to reduce requests to GPs for medical evidence from different arms of government.

‘We will cut back the number of indicators in QOF and launch a consultation on its future this summer as well as streamlining the Impact and Investment Fund.’

Health secretary Steve Barclay said: ‘This plan will make it easier for people to get GP appointments.  

‘By upgrading to digital telephone systems and the latest online tools, by transferring some treatment services to our incredibly capable community pharmacies and by cutting unnecessary paperwork we can free up GPs time and let them focus on delivering the care patients need.

‘Together with further support to increase the workforce, this plan will provide faster and more convenient care.’

However, RCGP chair Professor Kamilla Hawthorne said these initiatives won’t be enough on their own.

She said: ‘We’re… pleased to see there will be a consultation on how giving our pharmacist colleagues greater prescribing powers for minor illnesses could be implemented safely, and in a joined-up way. GPs work closely with pharmacists, often as part of the same practice team, and they already do important work, such as giving advice on minor ailments and undertaking medication reviews, that frees up GPs’ time for patients with complex needs.

‘However, whilst all these initiatives are positive steps, none are the silver bullet that we desperately need to address the intense workload and workforce pressures GPs and their teams are working under – we need thousands more GPs to be able to use these measures effectively to provide the services patients need.’

Visit PulseToday throughout the day and week for more on the GP recovery plan



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

David Church 9 May, 2023 8:15 am

Brilliant planning.
All the things that gPs are not allowed to give prescriptions for, but must spemd ages telling patients why they cannot have them, such as antibiotics, and they can just go instead to a pharmacy and get them anyway.
I bet they will still blame the gPs when something goes wrong, like rising antibiotic prescriptions and resistance/

SUBHASH BHATT 9 May, 2023 8:31 am

Try and differentiate between viral and strep A tonsillitis on phone. Ear ache is a symptom not a diagnosis .uti may well be pyelonephritis. Use money to recruit more gps.

Not on your Nelly 9 May, 2023 8:33 am

They can do BPs checks..will do one… and then say your bp is high , go and see your GP. Thanks a lot for that. Really helpful.

Michael Mullineux 9 May, 2023 8:56 am

Not much of a plan really, is it?

Ian Haczewski 9 May, 2023 9:06 am

In our area there is absolutely zero capacity for pharmacists to do any of this , so it won’t help us at all . Not that I think it is likely to help much anyway for all the reasons previously stated .

Robert James Andrew Mackenzie Koefman 9 May, 2023 9:10 am

sinking ship comes to mind

Just My Opinion 9 May, 2023 9:18 am

This is a desperate, doomed plan from a desperate, doomed government.
The solution for the GP crisis is, apparently, ‘get the pharmacists to do it’. Wow.

Keith Greenish 9 May, 2023 10:15 am

Pharmacists have for years been seeing patients with sore throats earaches and LUTS and selling them OTC remedies. The only meds that require prescriptions for these symptoms, where clinically appropriate, are antibiotics, which many people expect and require explanation why they are not necessary. What physical symptoms and signs will a pharmacist be required to assess and record, who will the patient contact when they are not better because their viral sore throat has been treated with antibiotics, and how will pharmacists record adverse events due to their prescribing when patients will go with these to their GPs?
It is essential that every pharmacist’s prescribing is monitored by the ICB Meds Management Team as is ours, and that increases in antibiotic prescribing are properly attributed and addressed.
When will the Govt realise that properly managed primary care requires years of training skill and experience and can only be safely delivered by GPs or if by other HCPs, then within general practice?

Steve McOne 9 May, 2023 10:49 am

Non-policy. Pharmacy First been in Scotland for a long time now – not useful at all. Pharmacists are more overloaded than a lot of GP’s and will bounce a lot of issues to GP’s anyway.

Pay/treat GP’s better, and the situation just might improve. But I think the point of no return had been reached long ago for the NHS….

Mr Marvellous 9 May, 2023 11:26 am

Just one other thought – where are pharmacists recording their advice?

Do they have clinical systems in place?

What’s going to happen when someone sues?

Nicholas Sharvill 9 May, 2023 11:44 am

What clinical system for note keeping/sharing do most pharmacies use?
I agree for cystitis make things as simple as possible and one assumes they will screen out chlamydia and other causes of dysuria. For ear ache and sore throats when the drive has been to stop using antibiotics it will be good to see the detail.
Are they also including pharmacies to be open in the evenings on bank holidays and two stop selling zero value products?

M Rain 9 May, 2023 1:37 pm

I am going to refuse seeing any patients with these seven ailments and would insist they should be seen by the chemist. I would also refuse to prescribe any treatment for these seven conditions, because they can get it from the chemist instead.
That is the only way I could free up some appointments to see those who need seeing.

Decorum Est 9 May, 2023 2:07 pm


SUBHASH BHATT 9 May, 2023 2:23 pm

Patient has a painful rash. How reception would diagnose shingles.

C Ovid 9 May, 2023 7:19 pm

OMG what a mess. Totally agree about the data sharing (and hopefully access to the spine when prescribing). If the numbers make sense, 15m saved appointments is 4% of our volume. Wow! They need to be in the building and not in the high street to share queries, please. The pharmacists must be included in the blowback when things go wrong for a patient otherwise they won’t have the joys of reflective practice. Not too late for them to go to medical school if they want to. In the annals of history an apothecary gave FREE advice and charged for the linctus and a physician charged for the advice and gave the meds for free. ,‘Twas ever thus. Not doctors. Our job is not easy and we have to give effective treatments. At least the govt knows and accepts it totally f**cked the workforce planning. Horrifying. It’s almost a war-crime.
Oh, and as a GP who watched lots of people die on home visits in the first wave, I am VERY offended when some pharmacist on BBC news says “we didn’t close during COVID (unlike GPs)” Up yours!

Jamal Hussain 13 May, 2023 11:32 am

I think it will be great. The pharmacists will need to up their game.
When the patients come in for their repeat scripts they can check the BP, check appropriate bloods, osteoporosis screening, mental health review, etc,
They can sort out their sick notes, check their inhaler technique. Review their medication. Optimise their compliance and concordance.
Shifting a lot of the risk over to pharmacists should help to reduce the indemnity fees for the GPS. Meh. It will likely go up. Lol. Care gets disjointed and risk increases.
It’s a choice though.