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Up to government and GPs to tell patients when to use pharmacies, MP says

Both the government and general practices have a “responsibility” to make it clear to people “why, under what circumstances, and how they need to use” pharmacies and NHS 111, a Conservative MP has said.

Pharmacies are “fantastic resources” but “we are not there yet” in successfully communicating how and why people should use them, Conservative MP for Barrow and Furness Simon Fell told MPs yesterday (October 26), during a debate on GP appointment availability.

“People are being told that they can go to the pharmacy and, for what it is worth, I think that is an excellent thing to be doing. We should be triaging people,” he said.

“However, we need better communication about why people should be going to the pharmacy, what symptoms they should be displaying and what questions they should have to go there instead of calling 111 or going to their GP,” Mr Fell added.

“The crucial point is about communications and signposting. Pharmacies and 111 are fantastic resources, but we must make it clear to people why, under what circumstances and how they need to use those routes.

“We are not there yet. That responsibility falls on both government and general practice. Something in the comms space is really important.”

If the issue is not carefully considered and tackled now, Mr Fell told MPs, “I fear that we are building up a problem for the future and that the recruitment issue is going to come back and bite us”.


GPs must make use of CPCS


Earlier this month, NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) and the Department of Health and Social Care (DH), published a blueprint for improving access to GP appointments.

It acknowledged the role community pharmacy can play in alleviating pressures on GPs, specifically through the Community Pharmacist Consultation service (CPCS) – which sees pharmacists offer advice and treatment on minor illnesses.

NHSE&I urged more GP practices to sign up to the service, in a bid to boost their capacity for same-day appointments.

Speaking at yesterday’s debate, the newly appointed pharmacy minister Maria Caulfield told MPs that “over 800 practices have already signed up to participate in the CPCS”.

“That will not only help patients,” she said, “but it will free GPs up to see the patients that really need to see them for clinical conditions”.

Ms Caulfield added that she felt “particularly passionate” about the use of community pharmacists.

“In many other countries, the pharmacist is the first port of call for minor ailments,” she said. “They are highly qualified professionals with over five years of clinical training who are able to assist patients.”



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