The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has cautioned the government that the latest same-day pharmacy consultation initiative must not be seen as a “silver bullet” for continuing pressures on primary care.
On Monday (22 July), Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock announced the introduction of the new NHS Community Pharmacist Consultation Service which will see local pharmacies providing same-day appointments to anyone calling NHS 111 about minor conditions. If testing is successful, the NHS hopes that GPs and A&E will also start to refer patients to the service over the next five years.
The NHS says the new service could relieve pressure on the wider NHS. It estimates that up to 6 per cent of all GP consultations (up to 20 million per year) could be safely transferred to a community pharmacy.
However, Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the RCGP, said the move should not be seen as a solution to the GP manpower crisis.
She said: "Introducing a greater variety of roles into the general practice team and making the best possible use of primary care professionals in the community is key to helping relieve the intense resource and workforce pressures facing GPs, and ultimately ensuring our patients get the care they need when they need it."
Whilst saying this new scheme is welcome, Professor Stokes-Lampard added that "it is not a silver bullet to addressing the pressures in primary care. Pharmacists - or any other primary care professional - must not be seen as substitutes for GPs, so efforts to recruit more family doctors, retain the existing GP workforce, and make it easier to return to practice after a career break or period working abroad must continue and be redoubled".