Eight in 10 people believe NHS access has been eroded in the past decade, but our new report, See You Sooner, suggests community pharmacy can help reverse this trend.
The report argues that one cost-effective way to release more capacity into the system would be to develop community pharmacies as neighbourhood health and wellbeing centres – offering support that encompasses prevention, treatment for common ailments, health surveillance and the routine medicines management of long-term conditions, in collaboration with patients’ GP practices. This would have a positive, unblocking effect elsewhere in the health and social care system, with each provider and professional group playing to their strengths.
The report found that the public appetite was there to see pharmacy address the issue. Nine in 10 people believe that more NHS services should be available in local pharmacies “to relieve pressure on GPs and make NHS services more convenient for patients”. Some 89 per cent of people in the survey said there should be fewer limitations on the range of treatments local pharmacists are permitted to supply without prescription, while 91 per cent said services in pharmacies should be expanded to help people with long-term medical conditions manage their medicines and take pressure off GPs.
I was interviewed on TV and radio about this topic, as were a number of NPA board members. The presenters, on the whole, took it as common sense that the most accessible part of the health system – local pharmacies – should be part of the solution to the NHS’s ongoing access challenge.
The See You Sooner report calls for:
• Investment in community pharmacy-based NHS services so that patients consistently get quality, convenient, face-to-face advice and treatment
• More opportunities for pharmacists to initiate, stop or modify patients’ medicines so that people don’t have to wait for a GP appointment for routine pharmaceutical care
• Community pharmacists to have read and write access to patient records to give patients the assurance that wherever they access healthcare, their experience will be safe and seamless
• The NHS Constitution to include guarantees of timely face-to-face access to primary care. Currently, the access pledges in the Constitution relate to emergency care or interventions that follow referral to hospital specialists – it currently has little to say about timely access to healthcare provided in the community.
The report comes just weeks after the Government missed a deadline for ensuring nationwide coverage of minor ailments schemes, which would allow people across the whole of England to get NHS treatments for coughs and colds and other self-limiting conditions from pharmacies without having to get a doctor’s prescription.
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Using pharmacy would have a positive, unblocking effect elsewhere in the system