New plan announced to reduce pressure on GPs

NHS England and the government have announced a new GP access recovery plan intended to enable millions of patients to receive quicker, more convenient access to NHS care from high street pharmacies.

The new plan means that for seven common conditions, patients needing prescription medication will be able to get it from a pharmacy, without a GP appointment. The conditions include earache, sore throat or urinary tract infection.

Around half a million women will now be able to access oral contraception from the pharmacy instead of speaking to a practice nurse or GP.

£645 million will be invested over the next two years to expand community pharmacy services.

The plan outlines actions that intend to improve access to care, support patients to manage their own health and modernise general practice.

More than double the number of people will be able to access blood pressure checks in their local pharmacy, with the number rising to 2.5 million from the 900,000 carried out last year.

It is hoped that the plan will be able to free up around 15 million GP appointments over the next two years.

The plan also includes the intention to end the 8am rush for appointments, which will be supported by investment in better phone technology for GP practices and enable them to redirect patients to other specialists such as pharmacist or mental health teams if appropriate. Extra training will also be provided to staff at GP practices to help them prioritise calls and redirect people who could be better treated elsewhere.

Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief executive said: “The care and support people receive from their local GP is rightly highly valued by patients and so it is essential that we make it as easy as possible for people to get the help they need.

“GPs and their teams are working incredibly hard to deal with unprecedented demand for appointments. But with an ageing population, we know we need to further expand and transform the way we provide care for our local communities and make these services fit for the future.

“Today, we are setting out an ambitious package of measures to do just that – with pharmacies playing a central role in managing the nation’s health including providing lifesaving checks and medication for common conditions for the first time.

“This blueprint will help us to free up millions of appointments for those who need them most, as well as supporting staff so that they can do less admin and spend more time with patients.

“Over the last 75 years, the NHS has always innovated and adapted to meet the needs of each generation and as we approach the 75th birthday, we are doing that for primary care services – providing easy and convenient care as close to home as possible.”

Prime minister Rishi Sunak said: “I am getting on with delivering on my five priorities and transforming primary care is the next part of this government’s promise to cut NHS waiting lists.

“I know how frustrating it is to be stuck on hold to your GP practice when you or a family member desperately need an appointment for a common illness. We will end the 8am rush and expand the services offered by pharmacies, meaning patients can get their medication quickly and easily.

“This will relieve pressure on our hard-working GPs by freeing up 15 million appointments, and end the all-too stressful wait on the end of the phone for patients.”