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Gloucestershire Business News

Pharmacists to prescribe antibiotics under new GP recovery plan

More people will be able to access health services without needing to see a GP under a plan launched by officials in England, as reported by BBC News.

Some are concerned about how pharmacies will cope with extra demand.

Data shows there are now fewer local chemists than at any time since 2015. Rising operational costs, staff shortages and reduced government financial support have been blamed. Pharmacists warn that many more local businesses could close without help.

NHS England chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: "Pharmacy services will get £645m over the next two years to boost staffing and resources.

"We are already seeing more than half a million patients a week more in GP surgeries than we were pre-pandemic. But we know that we need to go further to expand services and transform the way we provide care."

To ease the frustration of morning phone calls to try to book appointments, surgeries will get £240m to modernise and be able to deal with multiple calls at once.

The NHS England boss said that within the next year, nine in 10 people should be able to access their GP record on a smartphone to check things like test results, without needing to call their GP.

The recovery plan promises to overhaul stretched GP services by shifting some of the work to other parts of the health service.

Pharmacies will take on the prescribing of drugs for seven common ailments:

• earache

• sore throat

• sinusitis

• impetigo

• shingles

• infected insect bites

• uncomplicated urinary tract infections in women

Women will be able to get oral contraceptive pills direct from pharmacies too.

And patients will be able to self-refer for certain needs, such as booking in for NHS physiotherapy or podiatry without having to ask their family doctor first.

Sir Stephen Powis, the national medical director for NHS England, told the BBC's Today Programme: "We know this works. We've seen it work in local schemes, and similar schemes are operating in Scotland and Wales. We also know the pharmacy wants to do it."

The GP recovery plan comes amid mounting concern about services.

The latest GP patient survey shows 13% rate the service as poor or very poor overall, with nearly half complaining they did not find it easy to get through on the phone and nearly a quarter saying they were not happy with the appointment they were offered.

Doctors' leaders say the crux of the problem is that there are not enough GPs.

The government target to recruit an extra 6,000 GPs by the end of this parliament looks almost certain to be missed. When the promise was made at the end of 2019, there were just over 28,000 full-time equivalent GPs. At the end of March, that number had fallen to less than 27,500. However, the number of GPs in training has increased.

The government has also tried to bolster the wider workforce, bringing in initiatives to boost the number of nurses, physios and other health staff available. This has had some impact, with numbers on the up - around 33,000 non-GP clinical staff are working in general practice at the last count.

Peter Badham owner of Badham Pharmacy Limited talked to Mark Cummings on BBC Radio Gloucestershire and said: "We have been campaigning for this for years. Pharmacists undertake five years of training and are highly professional."

He went on to say that utilising this skill base and the chemist's resources, including technicians and admin staff, moves the whole team up a gear. It will be a challenge to manage the pharmacy queues. 

Peter added:" It's going to be a challenge to meet the demand,  and we face skills shortages in recruitment, like many other industries. We have added consulting rooms to all our pharmacies and during COVID we gave over 100,000 vaccines, which was unthinkable three years ago."

He went on to say that rising to such issues is not unknown to his business and other pharmacies. "By doing health checks such as blood pressure (hypertension) and prescribing medication to start to lower blood pressure makes health sense while the patient waits to see the GP."

Since its foundation by Richard Badham in 1940, the group is still run by five family members and has over 20 branches with circa 200 employees.

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