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GP appointments

Pharmacists could help prevent more than 100m people waiting a week to see their GP

Community pharmacy teams have the expertise to help ease lengthening waits for GP appointments.

A forecast of more than 100 million patients waiting more than a week for a GP appointment in five years’ time could be prevented if pharmacists have a greater role in delivering primary care services, national pharmacy bodies have said.

The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has warned that by 2021–2022, 102 million patients will have to wait more than a week to see their GP or a practice nurse. It analysed the GP Patient Survey – published by NHS England earlier this month — and concluded there would be a 25% increase from the 80 million patients expected to wait more than a week for a GP or practice nurse appointment in 2016–2017.

Both the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) have suggested the pharmacy profession can help to both ease pressure on GPs and boost access to care.

Further analysis by the RCGP of the patient survey shows that the waiting time situation across England is patchy. In Corby Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) area, 36% of patients had to wait a week for a GP or practice nurse appointment, but in Bradford City CCG area, only 9% of patients waited more than seven days.

Alastair Buxton

Source: PSNC

Alastair Buxton, PSNC director of NHS Services, says pharmacists can help relieve pressure on other primary care providers

Commenting on the RCGP findings, PSNC director of NHS Services, Alastair Buxton, said: “Now more than ever is the time for national and local healthcare leaders to recognise that community pharmacy teams have the expertise to play a much greater role in relieving pressure on other primary care service providers.”

Buxton added that pharmacies are “ideally placed” to support people living with long-term conditions, and that the PSNC hopes “CCGs will work with local pharmaceutical committees to consider how community pharmacy teams can be commissioned to provide services complementary to those provided by general practices”.

Robbie Turner

Source: MAG / Pharmaceutical Journal

Robbie Turner, RPS director for England, says community pharmacists can help with minor ailments and keep people out of GP surgeries

RPS director for England, Robbie Turner, said that with GP services under intense pressure, “community pharmacists can give patients with minor ailments fast, same-day access to urgent care, and help them to stay healthy and out of GP surgeries.

“We must make the best use of NHS resources in order to give patients the right advice in the right place, supporting the health and care system to deliver the outcomes envisaged in the NHS Five Year Forward View,” he said.

RCGP chair, Helen Stokes-Lampard, said: “Our patients should be able to see a GP when they need to, so we’re highly concerned that patients are finding it so difficult to make an appointment, and that in so many cases they have had to wait more than a week to see a GP. This is a clear risk to patient safety — and if nothing is done soon, it is clear that this is set to get worse.”

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2017.20203267

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