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Local pharmacies can ease the NHS access crisis

The NPA has published proposals for improving access to NHS care following a survey which revealed that most people believe access to NHS services has plummeted.

The survey reveals that 80 percent of people believe that access to NHS care has eroded in the course of the last 10 years, and especially so in the past 12 months. Nine out of ten people believe that more NHS services should be available in local pharmacies “to relieve pressure on GPs and make NHS services more convenient for patients.”

The NHS has a chronic access problem. Community pharmacy– a walk-in service usually located close to where people live, work and shop - must
surely be part of the solution. Only by mobilising the entire healthcare workforce, including community pharmacists and their teams, can there be any prospect of addressing the NHS access challenge on a sustainable basis.

Average waiting times are increasing in primary care, meanwhile the nationwide A&E four-hour waiting time target has been missed every year since 2013/14. This is something of a barometer for overall performance of the NHS and social care system, because A&E waiting times can be affected by changing activity and pressures in other services including community-based care.

GPs have a pivotal position in the health and social care system, performing many vital functions. The Royal College of GPs wants to increase average consultation times in order to give “more holistic” advice. At the same time, many doctors are planning to retire. Therefore, more capacity for primary care needs to be created than is currently being achieved.

One cost-effective way to release more capacity into the system would be
to develop community pharmacies as neighbourhood health & wellbeing centres –offering support which encompasses prevention, treatment for common ailments, health surveillance and the routine medicines management of long term conditions, in collaboration with patients’ GP practices.

This, in turn, would have a positive, unblocking, effect elsewhere in the health and social care system, with each provider and professional group playing to their strengths.

The NPA’s “See You Sooner” report calls for:

  • Investment in community pharmacy based NHS services, so that patients consistently get quality, convenient, face-to-face advice and treatment
  • More exibility for pharmacists to initiate, stop or modify patients’ medicines – so that people don’t have to wait for a GP appointment for routine pharmaceutical care
  • Community pharmacists to have read and write access to patient records to give patients the assurance that wherever they access healthcare, their experience will be safe and seamless
  • The NHS Constitution to include guarantees of timely face to
    face access to primary care. Currently, the access pledges in the Constitution relate to emergency care or interventions that follow referral to hospital specialists – it currently has little to say about timely access to healthcare provided in the community.

Read the report on NPA’s website and give your views on the proposals by emailing

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