Local pharmacies can ease the NHS access crisis, claims new report

25 Apr 2018

Improving access to NHS care by investing in community pharmacy

The National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has today published proposals for improving access to NHS care, following a survey which reveals that most people believe access has plummeted.

The survey reveals that 80% of people believe that access to NHS care has eroded in the course of the last 10 years, and especially so in the past 12 months. Nine in ten 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.”

Pharmacists can usually be seen by patients within minutes, typically without an appointment, but are currently restricted in the range of support they are allowed to deliver.  89% of people in the survey said there should be fewer limitations on the range of treatments local pharmacists are permitted to supply without prescription. 91% said services in pharmacies should be expanded to help people with long term medical conditions manage their medicines and take pressure off GPs.

NPA Chairman, Nitin Sodha, said:

“The NHS has a chronic access problem.  Community pharmacy – a walk in service located close to where people live, work and shop – must surely be part of the solution.  There is growing pressure on GPs and hospitals, often leading to long waiting times.  At your local pharmacy you can simply walk in off the street and see a health care professional for expert advice within minutes, usually without having to book an appointment.  Pharmacies have the potential to do so much more to improve access to care, if the government invests in pharmacy services and allows pharmacists to put their clinical skills to full use.  Our survey shows that people clearly understand local pharmacies are a solution to the NHS access crisis.”

Chief Executive of the Patients Association, Rachel Power, said:

“Patients, their families and carers must be able to feel confident that when they need care, advice and support, that they can access this in a timely way and it is provided to the highest standard. I’m therefore glad to see this confident promotion of the place of community pharmacy among the options to these challenges. I hope that it will not be too long before every asset at our disposal, including our community pharmacy network, is harnessed fully in providing patient care as effectively as possible.”

The NPA’s 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.  Such schemes are already nationwide in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Meanwhile, pharmacy regulator, the General Pharmaceutical Council, is consulting on standards for the education and training of pharmacist independent prescribers.  The consultation highlights that pharmacist independent prescribers are already playing a vital role in delivering high-quality care, and that their roles are continuing to broaden and develop.