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Scotland's 'fantastic' Pharmacy First service to expand after hitting 2m consultations

The Scottish Government has unveiled plans to further expand the range of conditions treated under the NHS Pharmacy First service, while pharmacists have completed two million consultations under the scheme since its launch last year.

Speaking about the success of the service yesterday (November 9), the Scottish health secretary Humza Yousef said that, as part of the NHS Recovery Plan, the government is now looking “to expand the range of common clinical conditions that can be treated by community pharmacists”, to avoid “unnecessary GP and out-of-hour appointments”.

 

New services and digital solutions

 

The government is still committed to “establishing a community pharmacy hospital discharge and medicines reconciliation service”, plans for which were first set out in the summer, Mr Yousef said. These measures will help “speed up the process for people being discharged from hospital”, he said.

A Scottish Government spokesperson told C+D today (November 10) that NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde is currently piloting a medicines reconciliation and hospital discharge service, the results of which will be used to inform any future national service.

Meanwhile, Mr Yousef also confirmed yesterday that the government is looking at new digital solutions such as ePrescribing and eDispensing, which he said “will make prescribing paperless and free up capacity for healthcare professionals to see more patients, while making it easier for the public to access their medicines quickly and safely”.

“Community pharmacists are playing a fantastic role in ensuring that millions of people have their minor ailment needs addressed quickly, without needing to go to a GP or hospital,” Mr Yousef said. “They are a prime example of getting the right care in the right place, at the right time.”

Launched in July last year after being postponed due to COVID-19, the NHS Pharmacy First Scotland service sees pharmacists offer free advice, treatment or supply of medicines “for minor illnesses”, supported by national patient group directions.

 

Service seen over 2m consultations

 

The Scottish Government confirmed yesterday that pharmacists have completed more than two million consultations since the NHS Pharmacy First scheme launched last year.

“Since its launch at the height of the pandemic, only 4% of patients needed to be referred on to another healthcare professional, such as a GP or hospital unit. The majority were handled by the pharmacy team, advice on self-care or with treatment,” the government wrote in a statement.

More than 1,200 community pharmacies are now also involved in the service, the Scottish Government added. Pharmacists in the network have taken on more than 200,000 appointments in the last year that would otherwise have gone to GP surgeries or hospital A&E departments, it said.

 

Some plans already part of NHS Recovery Plan 

 

In August, the Scottish government unveiled its NHS Recovery Plan, which revealed primary care investment would rise “by 25%, supporting GPs, community pharmacists, dentists and optometrists”.

At the same time, it also laid out plans to “establish a community pharmacy hospital discharge and medicines reconciliation service” and invest “in developing new digital solutions such as ePrescribing and eDispensing”. 

These were both expected to start being rolled out “in the second year of this plan”, the government said, which is believed to be in 2023/24.  

Speaking yesterday about the proposed expansion to Pharmacy First, Matt Barclay, the director of operations at Community Pharmacy Scotland (CPS) said: “Along with the Scottish Government, we are keen to map out the timelines for this and the associated discharge service which we already knew about from the recovery plan.”

He added: “This will then allow the network to be aware of what is coming up and plan accordingly with appropriate resources, ways of working and training. These are exciting services which will enhance the contribution of community pharmacy further and ultimately support patients who already seem to be embracing Pharmacy First.”

 

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