NHS prescriptions for illnesses including ear infections or sore throats can now be issued under Pharmacy First scheme
Patients suffering from common illnesses including earache, sinusitis and a sore throat may be able to get treatment and prescription-only medicines from pharmacies from today - without the need for a GP appointment.
The NHS Pharmacy First service believes it will be able to save up to 10 million general practice appointments a year by offering adults and children quicker and more convenient care for some complaints.
Seven common ailments, identified by the NHS, can now be treated by pharmacies signed up to the scheme, who will be able to examine patients and supply any required medicine.
The health service says more than 10,000 pharmacies have registered to be involved so far – including 1,400 in Boots stores - with further expansion expected as the scheme gets underway from this week.
Pharmacist Amish Patel from Hodgson Pharmacy in Station Road, Longfield welcomes the change, believing it will help relieve GP workloads.
He said: “Pharmacists have a lot of clinical knowledge and I think in community pharmacy unfortunately that clinical knowledge doesn’t get put to its best use, so it is definitely going to be a big help to the NHS.”
The initiative also builds on growing pharmacy involvement in patient care – where many branches already offer blood pressure checks and contraception services - says the Department of Health.
Ear infections, infected insect bites, skin condition Impetigo, shingles and sore throats are among the issues patients will be able to see a participating pharmacist for.
While women will also be able to seek help and treatment for ‘uncomplicated’ urinary tract infections.
People who are unwell with one of these suspected conditions will either be able to walk directly into a participating pharmacy without an appointment or could find themselves referred there via other NHS services such as 111, urgent treatment centres or GP surgeries themselves.
Age is also a factor in who will be offered help via this route – with the NHS producing clear guidelines on how old children and adults will need to be, depending on the illness, in order to be examined by a pharmacist.
Help and advice from pharmacies will be free but patients will be charged for any over-the-counter medicine they need to buy.
Those who need a prescription-only medicine, who aren’t eligible for free NHS prescriptions, will be charged the standard price for NHS prescriptions, which currently stands at £9.65.
Any of the medicines supplied by pharmacists will also be recorded in the patient’s NHS health record, which GPs have access to.