To help relieve pressure on family doctors, it has been reported that receptionists at GP surgeries will divert patients to attend local chemists for an appointment with a pharmacist instead.
From October 2019, patients telephoning NHS 111 will be offered appointments at their local pharmacy if call handlers believe they are suffering from a minor illness.
The NHS will also pilot the same system for patients trying to make a GP appointment, to introduce the system nationally within nine months. Under the arrangements, receptionists will be trained as “care navigators,” via online training, aimed at teaching them how to “signpost” patients to the right help.
This NHS plan would mean ‘same day’ appointments could be offered at pharmacies, helping to reduce the number of GP appointments by 20 million.
Health officials have claimed this would mean more accessible and convenient access to services.
However, concerns from patients’ groups have been raised about these measures as some are fearful that critical medical decisions would be taken by those with little or less training than those of clinicians/doctors.
This new idea comes amid ongoing growing shortages of GPs and record number of patients struggling to get through to practices on the telephone. Research found 31.7 per cent struggled to make contact with a GP receptionist, compared with 19.2 per cent seven years ago.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said: “Pharmacists are integral to community health and I want to move towards the French model, where they offer a wider range of services and play a stronger role in the community.”
However Joyce Robins, from Patient Concern, said: “It seems like a terrible idea. I can see the need to reduce pressures on GPs given how hard it can be to see one, but it is worrying to have reception staff taking such important decisions.”
Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chairman of the Royal College of GPs, welcomed the plans but said pharmacists must not be used as a substitute for family doctors.
Moosa-Duke Solicitors are specialists in clinical negligence law and regularly advise on cases involving a GP’s failure to refer. If you believe that you or a family member have received inadequate care from a GP or hospital Trust, please do not hesitate to contact us on 0116 254 7456 to discuss your concerns.