New pharmacy services to free up GP appointments

Pharmacy reforms have been announced which mean that at range of new services will be available on the high street.

Pharmacies across England will start offering the contraceptive pill from December, meaning half a million women will be able to access it without having to contact their GP first.

The change is part of the NHS and government’s primary care access recovery plan, which aims to make it quicker and easier for millions of people to access healthcare on their high street.

More blood pressure checks will also be given to at-risk patients. Pharmacists have a commitment to deliver 2.5 million a year by Spring 2025 – up from 900,000 carried out last year. It has been estimated that this could prevent more than 1,350 heart attacks and strokes in the first year.

From the beginning of next year, patients will also be able to get treatment for seven common conditions at the pharmacy, without having to go the GP. This will cover sinusitis, sore throat, earache, infected insect bite, impetigo, shingles, and uncomplicated urinary tract infections in women.

It is hoped these changes will free up 10 million GP appointments a year by next winter.

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

“This is really good news for women – we all lead increasingly busy lives, and thanks to this action, rather than making a GP appointment, they can simply pop into their local pharmacy when they need or want to access contraception.

“We will also be expanding services so that more health checks are available for patients on the high street, which is not only better and easier for patients but also frees up NHS time for more GP appointments for those who need them most.”

New health and social care 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.

“For the public these changes will mean more options for women when making a choice about their preferred contraception, reduce the risks of people suffering heart attacks and strokes and make it easier to access medicines for common conditions.

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