Pharmacy access even more vital, as Health Secretary pushes remote consultations

30 Jul 2020

Health Secretary Matt Hancock wants NHS healthcare consultations to be teleconsultations unless there’s a compelling clinical reason to make an in-person appointment.

His challenge to healthcare providers – made at a Royal College of Physicians event today – comes just weeks after an opinion poll showed that most people (77%) value the opportunity to see their pharmacist face-to-face in the community.  The same survey, carried out for the National Pharmacy Association in June, revealed that 55% of the public visited a pharmacy in person during the early months of the COVID19 lockdown.

Speaking from the event in London, NPA chief executive, Mark Lyonette, said:

“We know the Health Secretary wants to improve access to care online without losing the human touch in healthcare. We are up for that challenge. It will require serious investment in community-based assets, such as pharmacies, so that people continue to have the option to see a healthcare professional face to face if they want it – as many people do”.

“Recent developments in Scotland show the way, with pharmacies embracing both the NHS Near Me video consultation system and the new Pharmacy First minor ailments service.”

“If it becomes the norm for GP consultations to take place online, there could be a significant knock-on impact for pharmacies, with more people opting to visit their pharmacy first, to speak to a healthcare professional in person.  The community pharmacy sector needs to be fit and ready for that eventuality, while also stepping up our own capacity for digital delivery of care.”

“Most people can get to a pharmacy within a matter of minutes and get expert help without an appointment.  That’s a level of access that is unsurpassed elsewhere in the health service. At the same time, pharmacies are increasingly offering online consultations, which have been popular during lockdown.  The key, in the future, will be to offer choice and not to exclude anyone.”

At today’s event, Mr Hancock also praised pharmacies for providing “open access support” during the pandemic and said they are “very much part of the NHS”.