This new initiative is part of major plans to boost the role of pharmacists in patient care, outlined in the national NHS Long Term Plan. A total of 613 Greater Manchester community pharmacies (89%) have so far signed up to the new NHS Community Pharmacist Consultation Service, which launched on 29 October. People who call the free NHS 111 phone service can now be offered a same day consultation with their local community pharmacist, if they need an urgent supply of a prescription medicine or advice on minor illnesses.
The aim is to reduce pressure on GP practices and A&E departments, which come under increasing strain over the winter months. Early pilots in other parts of the country, found that an estimated 6% of all GP consultations could be handled by a community pharmacist, freeing up around 20 million GP appointments each year nationally.
Fin McCaul, pharmacist in Prestwich and Long Term Conditions Lead for NHS Bury Clinical Commissioning Group, said:
“It’s still early days but we’re already starting to see a difference as a result of this scheme. Whether a patient is running short of medication or is worried about their child’s cough, seeing a pharmacist means one less GP appointment or one less visit to A&E.
“It’s all about making best use of NHS resources. If community pharmacists are doing more, then GPs have more time to spend with those who are very unwell, reducing their chance of hospital admission. It’s absolutely right that community pharmacists are becoming more involved in patient care.”
The new service is part of wider changes across the NHS that will see an expansion in the role of community pharmacists.
In Greater Manchester, community pharmacists are now working across groups of GP practices, alongside other health professionals, as part of local Primary Care Networks. This patient facing role means they can offer faster expert prescription advice, comprehensive medication reviews, improvements to medicine safety, and extra support for care homes. The aim is to make it easier for patients to book a convenient appointment with the best expert health professional to meet their needs. This will allow GPs to focus on the sickest patients with complex, ongoing or serious conditions.
Sarah Price, Executive Lead for Population Health and Commissioning at Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership:
“Our health services are facing unprecedented challenges and that means finding new ways to deliver the standard of care that patients expect, whilst ensuring that services are sustainable and fit for the future. Doing things the way we’ve always done, is no longer an option. Greater Manchester pharmacists are rising to the challenge and becoming more closely involved in patient care, often in close partnership with other health and care professionals.”
For more information on the changing role of pharmacists in the region, see the Greater Manchester Pharmacy Strategy 2017-2021.