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New government ‘Pharmacy First’ scheme in England aims to ease pressure on GPs and praised by Newark MP Robert Jenerick

The launch of a new service will give patients more choice in how and where they access healthcare with added options at pharmacies.

As of last week, patients in England will be able to get prescription-only treatment for seven common conditions — sinusitis, sore throat, earache, infected insect bite, impetigo, shingles, and uncomplicated UTI cases in women — at a pharmacy, without the need for a GP appointment or prescription.

For these conditions, patients will be able to have a consultation with their pharmacist to discuss symptoms, who can then recommend the most clinically appropriate course of action.

A pharmacy sign.
A pharmacy sign.

This may include a treatment bought over the counter such as a cream or ointment, advice for self-care or supplying a prescription only medicine, such as an antibiotic or antiviral.

The ‘Pharmacy First’ service is part of the government's primary care recovery plan which aims to make improvements to the existing NHS and social care system.

Newark MP, Robert Jenrick, said: "Our pharmacies already play such an important role in meeting the health needs of our local communities, but last week, the Government announced reforms to maximise their potential.

"The new £645 million ‘Pharmacy First’ approach will equip community pharmacies to treat seven common health conditions without patients needing to see a GP, freeing up to 10 million GP appointments nationally per year.

"190 pharmacies in Nottinghamshire have opted in to the scheme."

Nationally, 95% of pharmacies will be offering the expanded services, which the government say will ease pressures on GPs practices by releasing an estimated 10m GP appointments per year.

The scheme is integrated into the NHS website, so when someone looks for certain symptoms that cover Pharmacy First they will be signposted to a pharmacy.

Pharmacy (stock picture)
Pharmacy (stock picture)

Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief executive, said: “GPs are already treating millions more people every month than before the pandemic, but with an ageing population and growing demand, we know the NHS needs to give people more choice and make accessing care as easy as possible.

“People across England rightly value the support they receive from their high street pharmacist, and with eight in ten living within a 20-minute walk of a pharmacy and twice as many pharmacies in areas of deprivation, they are the perfect spot to offer people convenient care for common conditions.

“This is great news for patients — you can pop into one of more than 10,000 high street pharmacies in England to get a consultation on seven common conditions including ear-ache, a sore throat or sinusitis at a convenient time, with many pharmacies open late into the evening.

“This is all part of major transformation in the way the NHS delivers care, with the health service determined to giving people more choice in how they can access treatment.”

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