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PSNC: English pharmacies carry out one million consultations a week

Informal consultations take up 75 minutes a day per pharmacy, the audit found.

Over a million “informal” consultations take place in community pharmacies in England every week, according to data from the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC).

PSNC yesterday (September 7) published the findings of its recent pharmacy advice audit in which 9,441 community pharmacies in England recorded details of consultations with patients that took place outside of commissioned services.

The participating pharmacies recorded a total of 198,043 consultations over an average of 1.5 days. Pharmacies were asked to record all consultations that took place on one day between June 29 and July 10, with a minimum of 20 consultations.

If pharmacies did not complete 20 consultations in a day, they were “to continue for multiple days until 20 consultations were recorded”, PSNC said in its report.

“On average, pharmacies recorded their consultations over 1.5 days, indicating that the average pharmacy carries out approximately 15 patient consultations per day,” PSNC said.

Therefore, across 11,200 English community pharmacies there are approximately “168,000 consultations per day”, the report said.

Overall, this amounts to more than a million informal patient consultations per week. Consultations included in the audit were ones “responding to symptoms and existing medical conditions, provision of healthy living advice and provision of advice following the delivery of another pharmacy service,” PSNC said.

Advice given after the dispensing of a medication was not included in the audit, and the audit was of consultations “conducted outside the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS) or any other commissioned services,” PSNC explained. 

However, the report shows that patients were sometimes referred to a commissioned pharmacy service – such as a stop smoking service – following an informal consultation.

600,000 weekly consultations for symptoms

In an average week,  “over 600,000 consultations are carried out to respond to patients’ symptoms”, PSNC said.

A further “185,000 consultations are carried out where pharmacies give patients additional support for a known medical condition”.

Relieving pressure on GPs

According to the report, consultations took “just over five minutes” on average, with around 75 minutes per day being taken up by informal consultations.

Of these consultations, 10% were referred on to the local GP practice. However, 49% of patients reported that they “would have visited their GP” if the community pharmacy had not been available. This would have resulted in “an additional 65 appointments in each GP practice each week in England,” the report said.

Patients were also “2.25 times more likely to present to A&E had they not been able to visit a community pharmacy after 6pm when compared to not being able to visit before 6pm”, according to the report.

This means that pharmacies are “helping to reduce [the] burden on other settings” as well as GP practices, the  report said.

The PSNC called on pharmacies to “do more to record consultations and evidence the outcomes they deliver”, in order to “help to persuade both the NHS and the public of the critical primary care role that is being delivered by all community pharmacies”.

Simon Dukes: Pharmacies not adequately funded by contract

PSNC chief executive Simon Dukes said the audit was provided “ a snapshot of just one element of the critical work that is going on in pharmacies at the moment”.

The findings of the audit “start to quantify some of the work that pharmacies are doing that we do not believe is now adequately funded by the community pharmacy contractual framework ”, Mr Dukes added.

The audit results form part of PSNC’s case to the government that the sector needs an “uplift” in funding, he said.

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