Hospital trusts and clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) around the country are urging patients to visit pharmacies as they struggle to cope with "unprecedented" demand.
C+D is aware of three hospital trusts that have directed patients to community pharmacies on their websites in a bid to cope with increased attendance at A&E departments. United Lincolnshire Hospital NHS Trust, Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Partnership NHS Trust and Gloucestershire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust all signposted patients with non-life threatening conditions to their local pharmacy in the last two days.
Data released by the Department of Health yesterday (January 6) revealed that almost 850,000 people attended A&E departments across England in the last fortnight, an increase of almost 70,000 (nine per cent) compared to the same period the previous year.
The United Lincolnshire Hospital NHS Trust admitted almost 600 more people between Christmas and New Year last year than the same period in 2013, and director of operations Michelle Rhodes said the trust was “urging everyone to think twice before they go to A&E". "Many illnesses can be better treated by visiting your local pharmacy,” she stressed.
Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Partnership NHS Trust said the situation had "escalated to major incident level" and advised patients to "use other facilities if possible". Ann Marie Morris, clinical director for emergency medicine at Royal Stoke University Hospital, said it needed the “whole community to respond to help relieve the pressure”.
An alternative port of call
North East Essex CCG communications officer Chris Lane told C+D the group had been encouraging people to use their pharmacy “again and again, in every way possible”. Gloucestershire CCG also used its NHS trust's website to highlight that local pharmacies were a “great port of call” for minor ailments.
North West Surrey NHS Trust warned patients last month that it was experiencing "particularly high levels of demand", and pharmacist Paul Andrian of Horsell Pharmacy in Surrey said he had noticed a “significant rise” in the number of people visiting his pharmacy because of the strain on hospitals.
“I am aware of hospitals and GPs redirecting patients to the pharmacy. Between December 22 and 31 there might have been 12 people [redirected]. This is a signfifcant number for us as this is a busy pharmacy with only one pharmacist,” he told C+D.
Pharmacist Elias Kazi, of Rowlands Pharmacy in Gloucestershire, said he was expecting to see more patients as a result of demands on nearby hospitals. “I think this will prompt people to use our minor ailments services more," he told C+D.