New plan from GPs asks more patients to go to pharmacies

Under a proposal launched by English officials, more people will be able to access health services without needing to see a general practitioner. To alleviate the burden on overworked physicians, patients are encouraged to fill some common drug prescriptions and routine testing at local pharmacies.

In the next two years, NHS England estimates that its plan will free up 15 million GP appointments, or roughly 2% of the total. However, some are worried about how pharmacies will manage the increased demand.

Since 2015, there are now fewer local chemists than at any point. Rising operational costs, personnel shortages, and a reduction in government funding have been cited as causes. Without assistance, many more local businesses may cease, warn chemists.

Amanda Pritchard, the chief executive of NHS England, stated that over the next two years, pharmacy services will receive £645 million to increase personnel and resources. She mentioned that they  are already seeing more than half a million patients per week in GP offices compared to pre-pandemic levels. However, they recognise that they must do more to expand services and transform the way we deliver care."

In an effort to alleviate the frustration associated with morning phone calls to book appointments, surgeries will receive £240 million to modernize and be able to handle multiple calls simultaneously.

The head of NHS England stated that within a year, nine out of ten patients will be able to access their GP record on a smartphone to check things such as test results without having to contact their GP. The recovery plan promises to restructure overburdened general practitioner services by transferring some of the work to other areas of the health service.

The prescribing of medications for seven prevalent ailments, including sore throats, earaches, urinary tract infections, and shingles, has been delegated to pharmacies.

Patients will be able to self-refer for certain requirements, such as booking appointments for NHS physiotherapy or podiatry, without first consulting their primary care physician. The GP plan comes amid escalating service concerns.

The most recent GP patient survey reveals that 13% rate the service as poor or very poor overall, with nearly half of respondents noting that it was difficult to get through on the phone and nearly a quarter expressing dissatisfaction with the appointment offered. The problem, according to the leaders of the medical community, is that there are not enough general practitioners.

The government's goal to recruit an additional 6,000 general practitioners by the end of this legislature is almost certain to be missed. At the time the commitment was made, there were just over 28,000 GPs working full-time equivalent hours. In fact, by the end of March, this number had dropped below 27,500.

The quantity of GPs in training has however increased. The government has also implemented initiatives to increase the number of available nurses, physiotherapists, and other health professionals.

This has had some effect, as approximately 33,000 non-GP clinical personnel are employed in general practice as of the most recent count. Utilizing pharmacies to enhance disease prevention is another goal of the NHS England plan.