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Government earmarks £645 million to foster community pharmacy advancements

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The government has allocated £645 million to enhance the efforts of community pharmacies, as outlined in the Primary Care Recovery Plan, according to the Department of Health and Social Care. A forthcoming consultation will enable registered pharmacy technicians to administer medicines, elevating their responsibilities and expediting medication distribution to patients.

“Discussions are ongoing among the government, NHS England, and the pharmaceutical sector to optimise the use of the allocated £645 million for the pharmacy sector,” the DHSC said in a statement. “This includes initiatives to offer patients prescription medication for seven common conditions without requiring a GP appointment.”

“We aim to optimise the expertise of skilled professionals like dental hygienists and pharmacy technicians, allowing dentists and pharmacists to focus on essential services,” said Health Minister Neil O’Brien. “Our clinics and pharmacies possess significant skills and experience. Through improved technology utilisation, service transfers, and reduced bureaucracy, we will achieve a more streamlined and impactful service.”

Meanwhile, the government has also invested £240 million, enabling more than a thousand practices to transition to user-friendly digital phones, ensuring swift access to care and preventing patient frustration. New digital phone lines will enhance GP appointment bookings for patients throughout England by the end of this fiscal year, the GPHC further said.

Practices using outdated systems will receive an average investment of £60,000 each to shift to digital phones, along with updated digital tools and assistance for the migration, the DHSC has said.

“We are fulfilling our commitment to improve access to GP appointments and enhance staffing levels,” said Steve Barclay, Secretary of Health and Social Care. “With the collaboration of NHS England, general practices, pharmacies, and dental surgeries, and backed by substantial government investment, we are poised to eliminate the morning rush for appointments. I am pleased that over a thousand general practice surgeries will soon leverage advanced technology, simplifying appointment booking for patients in the years ahead.”

“In July, the Company Chemists Association outlined four vital commitments poised to revolutionise patient care through community pharmacies. These commitments, akin to essential puzzle pieces, must harmonise for the transformation to succeed. They include: expanding workforce size and capability through education reforms, broadening clinical services commissioned in community pharmacies, introducing foundational digital enablers for service delivery, and implementing legislative changes to enhance patient-facing clinical care capacity.”

“It’s remarkable that all GP practices are embracing telephone system upgrades to simplify patient communication,” said Dr Kiren Collison, GP and Interim Medical Director for Primary Care at NHS England.  “The NHS is expanding convenient care access options, with pharmacies assuming a pivotal role in public health management. The pharmacy consultation revealed today will facilitate expanded high-street availability for critical health checks and medications.”

According to the DHSC, Close to half a million women can now bypass practice nurses or GPs to acquire oral contraception directly from local pharmacies. “Simultaneously, the NHS is substantially expanding the availability of blood pressure checks in local pharmacies, aiming for 2.5 million tests annually—more than double the 900,000 conducted last year.”

“These measures are expected to free up around 15 million GP appointments over the next two years, prioritising those who need attention the most,” the DHSC added.

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