Pharmacists to become 'core part' of NHS 111 ahead of national rollout

Pharmacists will sit in clinical support hubs "strategically placed across Wales"
Pharmacists will sit in clinical support hubs "strategically placed across Wales"

More pharmacists in Wales are to be recruited and trained to become a “core part” of the NHS 111 service ahead of its national rollout, C+D has learned.

The NHS 111 service is currently available in the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg and Carmarthenshire areas, after the service was launched as a pilot in 2016.

Welsh health secretary Vaughan Gething announced the national rollout earlier this month (April 5), and said he was “encouraged” by the suggested link between NHS 111 and a 1% decrease in ambulance use in the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg area.

Feedback from the pilot showed the service has been “valuable in supporting patients and helping the NHS to treat patients with urgent care needs more effectively”, Mr Gething added.

Alexandra Gibbins, professional lead for NHS 111 pharmacists in Wales, told C+D the rollout of the non-emergency service will include pharmacists within “clinical support hubs”, which will be “strategically placed across Wales”.

“Pharmacists will be recruited and trained to be part of the multidisciplinary teams that sit in the hubs,” Ms Gibbins said. “We’re moving [the clinical support hubs] across Wales, [which] very firmly includes pharmacists as part of that model.”

The NHS 111 service will be introduced across the country in a “phased approach, health board by health board” over the next three years, Ms Gibbins added.

Pharmacist training programme

In January, the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) launched a ‘transition programme pilot’ to support pharmacists moving into NHS 111 roles in Wales.

Ms Gibbins said if the transition pilot is successful, she “will be incorporating that into the training, so that any pharmacist that joins 111 in Wales will be going through that transition programme”.

While the pilot officially began in 2016, “we’ve had pharmacists in the regional [111] hub in the south west since 2015”, Ms Gibbins explained, and “pharmacists have been increasingly dealing with more calls in that hub”.

As of February, “pharmacists are dealing with about 10% of the total calls” coming into the out-of-hours hub, Ms Gibbins said. Of those calls, “about 72% are dealt with by pharmacists in their entirety”.

According to the Welsh government, the NHS 111 service in the country “differs from other UK models by having a greater proportion of clinical staff within it”.

Read what it is like to be a pharmacist working for the NHS 111 service in Wales here.

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