Over 12,700 Patients referred to expert pharmacists in the East of England – avoiding unnecessary A&E trips and GP appointments

Over 12,700 patients in the East of England have been saved unnecessary trips to A&E or GPs by being given appointments at a local community pharmacist through NHS 111.

Nationwide, over 114,000 patients have been referred in the ten weeks since the launch of the new appointments scheme, the Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced today.

The Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS), launched in late October 2019, allows NHS 111 health advisors to refer patients with minor illnesses to their local pharmacy for assessment and treatment.

In the East of England, in the first seven weeks of the scheme there have been 12,762 patients directed from NHS 111 to a same-day appointment with their local pharmacist.

These appointments comprised over 5,311 requests for an urgent medicine, such as for diabetes or asthma, and advice to over 7,451 people with a minor illness, such as a sore throat or earache.

NHS Digital data shows there were around 307 million GP appointments in the last twelve months, of which it is estimated 6% – or up to 20 million consultations a year – could be referred to a community pharmacist.

The new NHS 111 referral service has been taken up by over 10,600 pharmacies nationwide and delivers on the NHS Long-Term Plan aim of helping more people stay well in their communities and making use of expertise closer to home.

Health Secretary, Matt Hancock said: “I want to see pharmacists ready and able to do much more to help people stay healthy and prevent pressure on hospitals. This Pharmacy First approach makes life easier for patients and will help reduce pressure in the NHS. I want to see more patients with minor illnesses assessed close to home, saving them unnecessary trips to A&E or the GP, and helping people get the care and advice they need quicker.

“Thousands of patients receiving same-day advice from highly-skilled pharmacists is exactly what we need. Community pharmacy is an integral and trusted part of the NHS and we want every patient with a minor illness to think ‘pharmacy first’.

“This is just part of this government’s work to deliver on the people’s priorities and strengthen our NHS. Our record financial commitment for the NHS of £33.9 billion extra every year within the next 5 years.

Ruth Ashmore, Director of Specialised Commissioning and Health and Justice, NHS England and NHS Improvement – East of England, said: “It’s very easy to get a same day appointment with a community pharmacist if you are feeling unwell. It saves you the wait you might have to experience if you phoned your GP or went to A & E.

“The number of referrals from NHS 111 in the first two months alone show how well it’s working and reaction has been good, with people telling us they have been satisfied with the service they received.”

Dr Bruce Warner, Deputy Chief Pharmaceutical Officer, said it has been “a fantastic success”, adding: “This unlocks the full potential of community pharmacy, giving it a more central role in healthcare and speeding up patients’ access to excellent care and face-to-face consultations.”