GP practices across Leicestershire are working closely with community pharmacies to improve access to NHS services following the COVID-19 pandemic

People across Leicestershire with minor illnesses have been referred to local pharmacies relieving pressure on wider NHS services in the region, following the COVID-19 pandemic.

The NHS community pharmacist consultation service (CPCS) allows patients to be seen more quickly and makes better use of clinical expertise closer to home by referring patients to the most appropriate healthcare setting, such as a community pharmacy, freeing-up clinical practice staff to see more patients who need their help.

The North West Leicestershire Primary Care Network started using the scheme last year to improve access to its doctors.

Since using the service, the network, consisting of 12 GP practices covering 109,000 patients in Castle Donington, Ashby de la Zouch, Coalville, Measham, Ibstock and Markfield, has sent 747 referrals into the CPCS potentially freeing up 124 hours of general practice time.

PCN Clinical Director Dr Kirk Moore said: “Community pharmacists across North West Leicestershire are making a real difference to so many patients and their families working together as an integrated part of our general practice team.

“As we recover from the impact of the pandemic, the ability to refer a patient with minor illness symptoms for same day clinical advice and care via the CPCS is a great help.

“This demonstrates once and for all how much trust the public places in their local pharmacist working with us as part of the wider primary care team. Thank you to everyone who has worked so hard to make this a success.”

Community pharmacies now play a bigger clinical role than ever within the urgent care system by delivering a swift, convenient, and effective minor illness service to meet patient needs.

In a visit to the North West Leicestershire PCN, David Webb, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer at NHS England and NHS Improvement, saw the scheme first-hand and thanked colleagues for their hard work. He said:

“Community pharmacists are highly qualified clinical professionals who use their expertise to play a key role in the NHS’s recovery by making thousands of safe, convenient minor illness consultations available every day across England as part of an integrated service in primary care.

“Working closely with their GP team colleagues they are helping people to safely access the right clinical help fast and get the treatment they need.

“Pharmacies are at the heart of their local communities and really know their patients well. I’m delighted to see this working so well in North West Leicestershire.”

As well as referrals from general practices, the CPCS service takes referrals to community pharmacy from NHS 111 and NHS 111 online, Integrated Urgent Care Clinical Assessment Services and in some cases via the 999 service.

Making the best use of the clinical skills of pharmacists is an important part of the NHS Long Term Plan as the health service works to reduce elective backlogs caused by the pandemic.