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Pharmacy referral service ‘relieving pressure’ on GPs is set to expand

An NHS service that refers patients with minor illnesses to their local pharmacist for advice is helping to relieve pressure on GPs, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has said.

The DHSC said that the service will be expanded to include referrals from general practice by the end of 2020, subject to the ‘successful evaluation’ of pilot schemes.

The Community Pharmacist Consultation Service has been taken up by 10,610 pharmacies since launching in October 2019, and 114,275 patients have received assessment and treatment, said the Government.

Of this number, there were 64,067 requests for urgent medication, for conditions such as diabetes or asthma, and clinical advice was provided to 50,208 people with a minor illness, such as earache.

The service allows NHS 111 call handlers to refer patients with a minor illness to their local pharmacist for a same-day consultation, diverting them away from unnecessary GP or hospital visits.

Simon Dukes, chief executive of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, which represents pharmacies in England, said that the service had ‘been a long time coming’.

He said: ‘Finally, pharmacists on the high street are being asked to use their clinical skills and knowledge to help patients manage minor conditions – and it gives patients a convenient option for receiving high quality and clinically safe care and advice when they need it.

‘We’re delighted that so many pharmacies are already offering this important service and in doing so helping their patients and taking pressure off NHS colleagues.’

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘Thousands of patients receiving same-day advice from highly-skilled pharmacists is exactly what we need. Community pharmacy is an integral and trusted part of the NHS and we want every patient with a minor illness to think ”pharmacy first”.’