PHARMACIES in England will be able to treat seven new conditions without the need for a GP appointment from today.
More than 10,000 chemists — around nine in 10 — will offer the service as part of a “major transformation in the way the NHS delivers care”.
People with sinusitis, sore throat, earache, infected insect bite, impetigo, shingles and some urinary tract infections will be able to walk into their pharmacy for care.
The plans will free up 10million GP appointments a year, according to the NHS.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “This is about ensuring people get the treatment they need closer to home, while crucially helping deliver on our plan to cut waiting lists.
“Community pharmacies already do a tremendous job at treating minor conditions and we’re determined to go further and unlock their full potential to deliver routine care.”
The Pharmacy First scheme was first announced in May 2023, with the contraceptive pill being made available to women without prescriptions at pharmacies in December.
Antibiotics for the seven new conditions will now also be available at high street pharmacies, including Boots.
Pharmacists will be able to provide consultations, where they ask questions and perform examinations, but do not run diagnostic tests.
Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief executive, said: “This is great news for patients.
“With an ageing population and growing demand, we know the NHS needs to give people more choice and make accessing care as easy as possible.
“This is all part of a major transformation in the way the NHS delivers care, with the health service determined to give people more choice in how they can access treatment.”
Health Secretary Victoria Atkin said: “This initiative will have real benefits for patients and help cut NHS waiting lists.
“The expansion of Pharmacy First will mean patients can get treatment for common conditions without needing to see their GP first.”
This is all part of a major transformation in the way the NHS delivers care
Dr Leyla Hannbeck, of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, welcomed the move but warned pharmacies are “severely underfunded to the tune of £1.2billion”.
She said: “This stranglehold of chronic underfunding must be relieved to ensure our pharmacies continue to exist and can deliver to the potential the Government is expecting.”
Paul Rees, chief executive of the National Pharmacy Association, said the scheme would “play to the strengths of pharmacists as medicines experts” and free up GPs for other work.
He said: “Patients will get convenient clinical advice, close to where they live, work and shop.
“The pharmacy sector is under great pressure but, despite this, pharmacy teams will step up and successfully deliver this highly beneficial service.
“This could be a stepping stone to the development of other NHS clinical services in the future, as patients become familiar with going to their local pharmacy for primary care.”
It comes as the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists called for the morning-after pill to be made available off the shelf in supermarkets and petrol stations.
Medics in the college’s Faculty of Sexual and Reproductive Healthcare said emergency contraception pills should be reclassified from a pharmacy medicine to one for general sale.
What 7 conditions will pharmacists be able to treat from today?
Pharmacists across England will be able to assess and treat patients for
- Sore throat
- Infected insect bites
- Uncomplicated urinary tract infections in women under 65
Source: The Sun