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Pharmacy First launched: Over 10k community pharmacies begin treating people for common conditions


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With this new initiative, the NHSE aims to free up 10 million GP appointments a year.

The much-awaited Pharmacy First service has been launched in England, enabling patients to get treatment for seven common conditions from their community pharmacists without needing to see a GP.

According to NHS England, a total of 10,265 community pharmacies, which is equivalent to more than nine in ten community pharmacies in the country, will be offering the ground-breaking initiative.

The new scheme allows highly trained pharmacists to give advice and prescription-only medicines for minor ailments including sinusitis, sore throat, earache, infected insect bite, impetigo, shingles, and uncomplicated urinary tract infections in women (under the age of 65).

With this major expansion of pharmacy services, the NHS is aiming to free up 10 million GP appointments a year while giving the public more choice in where and how they access care.

Commenting on the launch, UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “Community pharmacies already do a tremendous job at treating minor conditions and with the Pharmacy First service – backed by £645 million – we’re determined to go further and unlock their full potential to deliver routine care.”

“This is about ensuring people get the treatment they need closer to home, while crucially helping deliver on our plan to cut waiting lists, by freeing up 10 million GP appointments a year, so people get the care they need more quickly.”

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Victoria Atkins also expressed confidence that this initiative will have “real benefits for patients and help cut NHS waiting lists.”

For common conditions like sore throat or earache, patients want to access the treatment they need quickly.

“Pharmacy First gives you choice, and the ability to be seen faster to get the care you need, providing easier and quicker access,” Primary Care Minister Andrea Leadsom said.

Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief executive, acknowledged that community pharmacies are the “perfect spot” to offer people convenient care for common conditions.

She commented: “This is great news for patients – from today 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.”

Expanding community pharmacy services

The Pharmacy First scheme is part of the NHS and government’s primary care access recovery plan, which is committed to making accessing healthcare easier for millions of people.

NHS England has set out a £645 million investment to support the continued expansion of community pharmacy services.

In December 2023, the health service expanded the contraceptive service to allow women in England to get oral contraception pills from their pharmacy without needing to first see their GP.

Over 5,300 pharmacies (5,367 to be precise) in England are now offering the service which is expected to help almost half a million women a year.

The Hypertension Case-Finding Service was also re-launched on the same day to increase the number of life-saving blood pressure checks given to at-risk patients.

Pharmacists are expected to deliver 2.5 million blood pressure checks a year by Spring 2025, up from 900,000 carried out in 2022, preventing more than 1,350 heart attacks and strokes in the first year.



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