High street pharmacists treat thousands more people for minor illnesses

More than 100,000 patients were seen by their high street pharmacist in just one month according to new NHS figures, helping people get the quick care they need as well as easing pressure on GP teams facing record demand.

In June, 118,123 people with minor illnesses such as a sore throat or constipation, or those in need of medicine urgently, received a same-day consultation with their local pharmacist after calling NHS 111 or their GP practice – an increase of more than four-fifths (83%) on the number in the same month last year (64,512).

The data comes alongside expanded roles for community pharmacies ahead of winter, announced at the NHS England board meeting today.

From this week, NHS 111 online can directly refer people to their high street pharmacist for a same-day consultation, rather than patients needing to call the phone line.

And hundreds of GP practices are already trialling a new service which enables people to register or change their GP surgery online.

People can search on the NHS website (nhs.uk) for their nearest GP and register within minutes under the new pilot of 70 practices, with plans in place to scale the service up to 600 practices in the coming months.

GP teams are seeing and treating more people than ever before with 35 million more people seen in general practice a year compared to pre-pandemic levels. Face-to-face appointments are also at their highest level since before the pandemic with around two-thirds of appointments carried out in person at GP practices in August.

Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief executive, said: “Our local pharmacies ensure hundreds of thousands of people every week get the support and medication they need and today’s figures show that in just one month, over 100,000 patients have also had consultations with their local pharmacist for minor illnesses – this means patients are getting the care they need quickly but also in a convenient way that can fit in with their busy lives.

“We are committed to making access to NHS services as easy as possible for our patients – from this week, people can be referred for a consultation with their local pharmacy through the touch of a button through NHS 111 online and from tomorrow, a new pilot will mean people can register for a local GP practice online within minutes.

“It is likely that we will face a busy and challenging winter and while we have already announced plans to boost capacity across our services, I am delighted that hardworking pharmacy teams are playing an even greater role.

“It is vital that the public continue to use the NHS as they normally would if they are unwell so people should continue to use NHS 111 and as ever if it is life-threatening, call 999”.

The NHS is also encouraging the public to use nhs.uk to seek health advice and basic tips on self-care so they can manage their health better.

From next month, anyone can see their GP records on the NHS App including new blood test results, without the need to contact their surgery.

The general practice workforce has increased by 19,000 since 2019 – ahead of the government target of recruiting 26,000 staff by 2024, including building multi-professional teams who offer patients a wide range of care.