The New Pharmacy First Advanced Service in the UK: How Does it Work?

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The Pharmacy First scheme was something the UK so desperately needed. Sometimes, it simply made no sense to visit the GP when you could walk into the pharmacy.

It was launched by the government and NHS England on January 31, 2024, to ensure that patients receive quicker and more accessible care while at the same time taking off pressure from GP services. 

Read on to learn more about it.

What is Pharmacy First?

Pharmacy First allows community pharmacists to manage seven common conditions without seeing a doctor. Patients can be treated within their communities, making healthcare convenient and efficient.

This scheme includes sinusitis, sore throat, earache, infected insect bites, impetigo, shingles and uncomplicated urinary tract infections in women. In cases where appropriate under clinical judgement - pharmacists can supply prescriptive medications like antibiotics or antivirals. That will reduce the administrative burden on GPs while accelerating treatment for patients.

How Will This Reduce NHS Waiting Times?

One of the main objectives of Pharmacy First involves reducing the number of GP appointments required for minor ailments so that time spent with GPs could focus on more complicated cases instead. By next winter, it aims for up to 10 million GP appointments to be saved annually. That would alleviate massive pressure on GPs and the NHS. If you do go to the pharmacy and they tell you to see your GP but you can’t get an appointment, you can use services like the Anytime Doctor.

Signed-up to by over 10,000 pharmacies in England, representing more than 95% of all England's pharmacies, means this service is accessible to almost everyone. Four out of five persons living in England can access a community pharmacy within walking distance of 20 minutes - the most deprived areas have twice as many pharmacies, making it easier and fairer for everybody to get medical treatment.

How Can You Access Treatment?

Accessing treatment is simple because - you can just walk into participating pharmacies or contact them online. Or, GP Receptionists can signpost patients to local Pharmacies that provide this service, as do NHS 111 and emergency care providers.

At the pharmacy, you will have your consultation conducted by a pharmacist in a separate private room. They may examine you or even look through your medical records so that they can recommend the best course of action for you.

Will Pharmacies Be Able to Handle the Increased Demand?

The government has injected £645m into community pharmacies over two years, including enhanced IT infrastructure and extensive guidelines. These investments allow pharmacies to cope with increased demand and provide quality care. 

Also, the sector receives £2.6 billion every year for operations support. These funds help expand pharmacists' roles, like providing contraceptive pills, carrying out blood pressure checks, etc. They can all prevent incidents like heart attacks or strokes. Expanding pharmaceutical services will result in large-scale public health enhancements across the country.

The UK healthcare system made a significant step ahead by introducing the Pharmacy First initiative - the UK was desperate for something like it. Pharmacy First is on the verge of making health care more accessible and efficient, with huge investments and wide participation. Your nearby pharmacy can give you quick and convenient care, and it's about time!