A Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) analysis has shown that ‘Pharmacy First’ service in England could free up 30m+ GP appointments each year.
It has urged the Government and NHS to be even ‘bolder in their ambition and go further and faster’.
The recent ‘Delivery plan for recovering access to primary care’ announced a ‘Pharmacy First’ service for England, mirroring similar approaches in Scotland and Wales.
The association has estimated that with the added capability to supply non-prescription medicines and prescribe additional prescription-only medicines, an ambitious ‘Pharmacy First’ service could free up 30m+ GP appointments annually.
Harnessing community pharmacies to deliver care for minor health conditions will effectively create 11,000 urgent care centres in England.
The CCA believes that Pharmacy First should be the launchpad for pharmacies delivering more and more clinical services. Ambitious commissioning could position pharmacies as the ‘go-to’ place for urgent and emergency care.
To unlock this potential CCA has suggested a fairer funding framework for community pharmacies. It said: “Community pharmacy is chronically underfunded. The current annual funding shortfall equates to more than £67,000 per pharmacy in England. The funding announced in the recent Delivery Plan is new money for new activity and does not address the historic underfunding of the sector.”
Secondly, a bold approach to harnessing Pharmacist Independent Prescribing. All pharmacists registering after 2026 will be independent prescribers (IP). There are an estimated 23,000 pharmacists currently in England without IP qualifications. Under current plans, it will take until 2040 to train the entire workforce.
Malcolm Harrison, Chief Executive of the CCA, said: “Government plans to rollout Pharmacy First are welcome, but are only a drop in the ocean. Under current plans, pharmacies are expected to free up 6m GP appointments annually – but our analysis shows pharmacies could do five times this number.
Action to address the historic underfunding of pharmacies and a roadmap to utilise the clinical skills of pharmacists are essential to achieving this. The Covid-19 vaccination programme showed what pharmacies can do when the Government places its faith and investment in pharmacies.
An investment in community pharmacy, is an investment in greater capacity for the NHS, enhanced resilience in primary care and better patient outcomes”.