NHS 111 service enables people to have appointments booked with local pharmacist

A new scheme has been introduced in the East Midlands to enable people calling the NHS 111 help line to have appointments booked with a local pharmacist this winter.

Over 550 local pharmacies across the East Midlands are taking part in the pilot scheme, which enables NHS 111 call handlers to transfer patients with minor health conditions to a local pharmacy for advice and treatment.

The new Digital Minor Illness Referral Service (DMIRS) is available to the public calling NHS 111 in Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland, Lincolnshire, Northamptonshire and Milton Keynes.

By providing face to face appointments, community pharmacists can give advice and treatment for common winter illnesses including colds, sore throats, and vomiting.

This new scheme means people who have called 111 about a minor illness have the option to see a pharmacist instead of being referred to a GP or walk in centre, which frees up these services to treat people with greater clinical need.

Pallavi Dawda, Local Professional Network Chair and DMIRS Project Manager for the East Midlands, said: “When we get sick, many of us don’t think about contacting a pharmacist.  Thanks to this new service, patients contacting NHS111 for advice can be directed to a pharmacist that will be expecting them, meaning that they can get the right treatment close to home.

“Patient feedback from a similar service introduced in the North East has been very good and we are pleased to be able to offer this in the East Midlands, to make a positive difference to patient care in our area.”

On referral from 111, patients receive a clinical assessment in a private consultation room at their local pharmacy.

Community pharmacist, Emily Khatib, from Peak Pharmacy in Inkersall, Derbyshire, said: “Visiting your local pharmacy is convenient, easily accessible and you often don’t have to wait to be seen. Pharmacists are your healthcare professionals on the high street.

“This new route through NHS 111 provides an alternative option for patients with minor health concerns, helping to free up capacity in other areas of the NHS.”

Every pharmacist is trained in managing minor illnesses and providing health and wellbeing advice. They train for five years before they qualify and register with the professional regulator and some also have an additional prescribing qualification.

The DMIRS trial scheme launched in November 2018 and will run until March 2019. It follows a successful pilot of DMIRS in the North East which has been expanded to London and Devon, as well as in the East Midlands.

Jenny Doxey, Clinical Director of DHU 111 East Midlands, said. “The scheme is expanding the options available for health advisors to refer patients for treatment of minor illnesses that pharmacists are available to provide. This will also encourage the public to visit their pharmacists in the future for minor illness advice and treatment.”

The scheme is funded by NHS England’s Pharmacy Integration Fund supporting the transformation of pharmacy to improve the quality of services for the public as outlined in the Five Year Forward View.

Please note that patients can still access advice from their community Pharmacist by walking into any Pharmacy in the region.