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Hospitals turn to pharmacy to relieve winter crisis

North West Surrey NHS Trust, which includes Ashford and St Peter's Hospital, is experiencing "particularly high levels of demand"

NHS trusts are signposting patients to pharmacies as winter A&E admissions exceed last year's levels

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.

Have you you noticed more patients redirected to you from hospitals? 

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SydBashford Sold&Retired&DeRegistered, Community pharmacist

12 people..... From 22nd to 31st.....very significant increase, I'm sure !!!

London Locum, Locum pharmacist

Lol. I see your point. A whole 12 patients in 10 days!!

Stephen Eggleston, Community pharmacist

Good time for a Minor Ailments Scheme - properly funded, of course!

Chad Harris, Community pharmacist

NO! NO! NOOOOOOOOO!!!!! Stop giving them free stuff, can't you see that this is what creates more demand?! You medicalise a trivial ailment like a cold then 'treat' them, so they expect you to do the same again next time! I wish everyone would STOP BANGING ON ABOUT A NATIONAL MINOR AILMENT SERVICE!!! What is wrong with people in this country that they can't pay 49p for a box of paracetamol?? And expect to waste a GP's time just to get something because it is free to them. An economist would tell you the only way to reduce demand is to bring in a charge, then people will think first. We need to increase the exemption age to age 70. Drop the charge from £8.05 down to £2.50 and charge everyone between age 18 and 70. Look at medical exemptions that have barely changed since the 1960s and massively promote pre-payment certificates for everyone. We need the biggest change in NHS prescriptions since Mrs Thatcher introduced the blacklist to stop people bothering a GP for bloody Benylin!!! Oh, and if GPs opened on a rota basis on Saturdays for a couple of hours like they used to pre-2004 new contract, it would massively stop people turning up at A&E. I had a lady with a sore throat one Sunday in my supermarket pharmacy, ask me if she should go to A&E. ?!!! I told her the answer lay in the question! NO! So she bought some painkillers and a chloroseptic spray! And the worst thing is, this was a middle-aged, well dressed, middle-class, well spoken, educated woman! If she is thinking of going to A&E with a trivial complaint what is going wrong in this country??????!!!!! What happened to self-reliance? People need educating or the NHS won't exist when today's kids are pensioners. WE will be like America, thanks to people's greed and stupidity. Sorry again if this sounds harsh and uncaring. But it's true! I'm a pharmacist I'm not Mary bloody Poppins!!!

London Locum, Locum pharmacist

The easy and free option - Pharmacy. When will the donkeys leading Pharmacy wake up.

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