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Enhancing Primary Care: The NHS Pharmacy First Programme

Enhancing Primary Care: The NHS Pharmacy First Programme

The NHS Pharmacy First Programme established as part of the delivery plan for recovering access to primary care, aims to revolutionise the way primary care services are delivered. Launched as a pilot programme in 2019 and later expanded, Pharmacy First allows patients to seek advice and treatment for minor health concerns directly from their local community pharmacy. This innovative approach enhances the role of community pharmacists as frontline healthcare providers and empowers patients to access timely and convenient healthcare services.

As well as providing streamlined care and advice for patients the subsequent effects can alleviate pressures on primary care services. Set to launch on the 31st January 2024, allowing community pharmacy to offer to both walk-in and refereed in patients pathways of care with both advice and treatment on seven minor ailments – sinusitis, sore throat, acute otitis media, infected insect bites for adults and children, impetigo for adults and children, shingles for adults aged 18 years and over; and uncomplicated urinary tract infections in women aged 16 to 64.

Expanding the Scope of Community Pharmacies

The NHS Pharmacy First Programme acknowledges the untapped potential of community pharmacies. By expanding their role beyond medication dispensing, primary care providers can now collaborate more closely with pharmacists to enhance patient care. This step allows pharmacists to play a crucial role in educating patients about self-care and appropriate use of medications, promoting a culture of health literacy within communities.

Streamlining Access to Minor Ailment Treatment

Patients can consult with trained pharmacists for advice and treatment for minor health concerns without the need for a prior appointment, reducing pressure on GP practices and emergency departments. Allowing concerns to be addressed promptly, preventing the escalation of health issues, while supporting primary care professionals to better allocate their expertise and resources to more complex health issues.

Looking ahead, the programme's potential for growth and development is promising. It may pave the way for the integration of digital technologies, expanding the range of minor ailments covered, and fostering stronger partnerships between primary care professionals and community pharmacists.

The NHS Pharmacy First Programme is not just a shift in healthcare delivery, it is an opportunity for primary care professionals to redefine their roles within the community.

The full-service details can be found in the NHSE website, and Community Pharmacy England has put together a helpful briefing with FAQ for General Practices and LMCs.

Hear more about the Pharmacy First Programme from NHS England in the Keynote Theatre at Best Practice London, 28 February 2024.

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