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Winter pressure leads to £300m NHS boost and plea to use pharmacies

The new money will go towards providing extra healthcare staff and up to 2,500 additional beds.

Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS England medical director,  is urging patients to use pharmacies more to relieve pressure on GPs that could lead to an additional £300 million NHS boost in winter

Source: Bruce Adams / Daily Mail / Rex Features

Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS England medical director, says patients could go to pharmacies for minor ailments to relieve pressure on GPs

The UK Government is to inject an extra £300m into the NHS to help support local health services as winter approaches.

The latest cash boost to pay for more bed space and additional clinical staff follows an initial £400m of extra funding announced earlier in 2014. This means the NHS can “better plan for seasonal variation in demand while recognising the need to ensure the services are financially sustainable”, according to the Department of Health.

“We know the cold weather can bring added pressure so we’ve given the NHS extra resources to make sure it is better prepared,” said health secretary Jeremy Hunt. “We’re boosting frontline services and expect the NHS to ensure strong performance is delivered locally.”

The Department of Health estimates the new investment will provide up to an extra 1,000 doctors, 2,000 nurses and 2,000 other NHS staff, as well as up to 2,500 extra beds. Around £25m will be used to help increase access to GPs and £50m will be used to support ambulance services.

Meanwhile, NHS England medical director Sir Bruce Keogh is urging patients to use pharmacies more to relieve pressure on GPs.

Speaking at a briefing on 13 November 2014, Keogh said that during the winter GPs are under strain, often because of people coming in with minor ailments such as coughs and colds. “A lot of that strain could be relieved if people used pharmacies more,” he said.

Ash Soni, the president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, welcomes Keogh’s comment. “I agree with Sir Bruce that pharmacists are an underused resource in Britain,” he says. “Pharmacists are central to relieving the ever-increasing demand on GPs and A&E staff, enabling those professionals to focus their skills on diagnosing and treating patients needing their care.

“Greater access to community pharmacists will be of huge benefit to patients, doctors and nurses — and to the bank balance of the NHS.”

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2014.20067162

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