Pharmacies across Gloucestershire will be extending the range of clinical services they provide by treating seven common conditions following NHS England’s nationwide launch of the Pharmacy First service on 31 January.

Under the service, highly trained pharmacists can assess and treat patients for sinusitis, sore throat, earache, infected insect bites, impetigo, shingles and uncomplicated urinary tract infections in women (under the age of 65), without the need for a GP appointment or prescription.

This will give patients quicker access to assessment, advice and treatments for minor illnesses, whilst alleviating the demand for appointments with clinicians in busy general practice and out of hours services.

All 105 of the county’s pharmacies have signed up to provide the service.

Sian Williams, Community Pharmacy Clinical Lead at NHS Gloucestershire, said:

“Our community pharmacy colleagues are keen to support Pharmacy First and have been asking for this type of service in England, which mirrors similar services in Scotland and Wales that are running successfully there.

Local pharmacies are staffed by highly qualified healthcare professionals who provide advice, treatment and long-term support to patients, families, and carers.

Expanding the range of services they can offer is a safe and common-sense way of making NHS services easier and more accessible to patients.

As with any new service, especially one launched during winter and at pace, there will be a learning curve as new processes, such as automatic digital updates to patient records, are put in place.

Pharmacy teams will remain very busy throughout the winter, but they are working hard to build these new services into their daily workload, so we ask people for their understanding and patience over the next few weeks.”

Dr Ananthakrishnan Raghuram MBE, Chief Medical Officer at NHS Gloucestershire, said:

“Demand for appointments at GP surgeries in Gloucestershire has increased by around 27% since pre-COVID pandemic levels in 2019.

Our GPs and pharmacists already work closely together, with pharmacies playing a vital role in keeping our local communities healthy and well.

Pharmacy First is to be welcomed as it will help to relieve pressure on our hard-working GPs and practice teams, freeing up appointments for patients who really need GP surgery services.”

Andrew Lane, Chair of Community Pharmacy Gloucestershire said:

“By thinking ‘Pharmacy First’, people will find it easier and quicker to get the help they need and bypass the 8am rush to book an appointment with their GP.

The new service is part of a wider expansion of healthcare services and will give people more choice about where to access their healthcare.”

Tom Yerburgh, Chair of Gloucestershire LMC, said:

“We’re fully supportive of the launch of Pharmacy First which will provide patients with wider access to healthcare professionals and treatment for these specific conditions and relieve some of the demand on GP practices.

We are mindful however that this does not replace the need to properly fund GP practices.”

Nationally, it is expected that this expansion of pharmacy services will free up 10 million GP appointments a year.

A national campaign, supported locally, to raise awareness of the new services and build trust in pharmacists is underway.