So walk-in pharmacy services could save 40 million GP appointments per year, say pharmacists. And they should know, because they’re good at counting, right?
But there’s that key qualifier, ‘could’, which I’m guessing means pharmacists ‘could’ save 40 million appointments per year in the same way that they ‘could’ solve global warming through switching inhalers or ‘could’ achieve world peace by slipping anti-psychotics into the tap water.
In fact, the idea to scrap the need for practices to make burdensome formal referrals under the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS) ‘could’ spectacularly backfire. A pharmacy free-for-all encouraging attendance for minor ills will simply accelerate the medicalisation and infantilisation of the public to the extent that minor illness becomes a major headache.
After all, the vast majority of these minor ailments are trivial, self-limiting and merely require an authoritative family figure (a granny) telling you, man up, it won’t kill you, and it’ll pass (which works particularly well for constipation) – rather than a health professional (a pharmacist) aggrandising minor symptoms, perpetuating myths about green phlegm and flogging OTC rubbish.
And the problem with flogging OTC rubbish is that it comes with an expectation that it’ll do something. When it doesn’t, the response of patients is that they need something stronger, aka antibiotics, aka a GP appointment. This is one of the two reasons our practice quit the CPCS, the other being that patients told us they simply didn’t trust the advice they were getting (and I still can’t decide whether that makes me think better of patients, or of pharmacists).
Besides, low tolerance/high neurosis patients can already access pharmacy advice for every cough, sniffle and poop, and probably do. So rejigging the CPCS to walk-in service suggests that pharmacists ‘could’ start getting paid for a service they are providing anyway. Told you they’re good at numbers.
Dr Tony Copperfield is a GP in Essex. Read more of Copperfield’s blogs at http://www.pulsetoday.co.uk/views/copperfield