The new NHS Community Pharmacist Consultation Service will offer local pharmacy appointments to anyone calling NHS 111 about minor conditions such as earache or a sore throat.
If testing is successful, GPs and A&E will also start to refer patients to the service over the next 5 years.
Patients will continue to have the option to see their GP or attend A&E if they want to.
One of the aims is to make better use of pharmacists’ skills, as pharmacists receive 5 years of training, giving them expert knowledge of medicines and drug interactions.
The new service could see millions of appointments being provided by community pharmacists where appropriate, relieving pressure on the wider NHS.
It’s estimated that up to 6% of all GP consultations could be safely transferred to a community pharmacy. This is up to 20 million GP appointments per year.
The new service is part of a list of services being announced as part of the new 5-year Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework, which will take effect from October.
The framework focuses on prevention, urgent care and medicines safety to help more people stay well in their community. It gives almost £13 billion to expand the role of community pharmacy, while continuing to support the introduction of new services over the course of the 5-year contract.
Areas the framework will expand over the next 5 years include:
- online training for all pharmacists to spot the early signs of sepsis
- developing and testing an early detection service to help identify people who may have undiagnosed cardiovascular disease
- checking all patients with diabetes who come to the pharmacy to ensure they have had their annual foot and eye check
- ensuring pharmacists receive the latest guidance on how to assist anyone with dementia
- running the Healthy Living Pharmacy scheme to all pharmacies in England to help people lose weight or stop smoking
- hepatitis C testing for those enrolled in needle exchange programmes
- exploring how pharmacists can be better supported to spot the warning signs of suicide
- introducing proactive medicine safety checks to avoid patients receiving dangerous combinations of drugs
The NHS Long Term Plan commitment to help older people age well will see better use of community pharmacists’ medicines expertise. Pharmacists will be able to offer patients recently discharged from hospital more advice and support, including helping with repeat prescriptions without having to return to the GP.
Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, said:
Pharmacists are integral to community health and I want to move towards the French model, where they offer a wider range of services and play a stronger role in the community.
Every day more than a million people use our community pharmacies in England and we want to support our incredible pharmacists to unlock their full potential, helping them offer more health advice and support more patients as part of our Long Term Plan for the NHS.
Community pharmacies are a vital and trusted part of our NHS, and this five-year deal will ensure more people get support in the most appropriate setting, which in turn helps relieve pressure on the wider health service.
Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, Keith Ridge, said:
This deal provides the accessible and convenient healthcare that the public really want, while offering a more fulfilling clinical career to pharmacists and pharmacy technicians as a valued part of the NHS team.
Joining up primary care organisations ‒ GPs, pharmacists and community services ‒ for our patients, is the foundation of the NHS Long Term Plan and community pharmacies are an important part of these networks, where residents can get a range of health checks and advice as well as picking up their prescription, a service which will now be even safer and more efficient.