Pharmacies in Cornwall have started to offer face-to-face consultations to any patient who needs it, to help ease mounting pressures on GP, A&E and NHS 111 services.

The new service will see most pharmacies in the region offer patients advice on how to treat common ailments from their consultation rooms. If needed, patients will be referred to other NHS services.   

Patients who want to see a pharmacist, in one of the 98 pharmacies taking part in the service, do not need to book an appointment or rely on a referral from their GP. 

The service, which was officially launched on 6 January and ends in March, hopes to ease pressures on the wider healthcare system, including GPs.  

The service had a 'soft launch' in December which saw more than 90% of users' symptoms treated on site.  

Drew Creek, operations manager for Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Pharmaceutical Committee (LPC) told The Pharmacist that so far pharmacists have resolved 86% of clinical issues in pharmacy with 3% requiring urgent referral and 11% requiring a non-urgent referral.   

He also said that of the 235 appointments that have already taken place, 86% of patients would have contacted their GP for an appointment if not seen by a pharmacist and 10% would have gone through 111 and A&E.  

‘We are seeing everything from skin rashes, UTI, to mental health concerns, so a broad spectrum,’ he said.   

Speaking to The Pharmacist about the new service, Nick Kaye, the interim chief executive of Cornwall and Isles of Scilly Local Pharmaceutical Committee (LPC), said that the service is open to all pharmacies that have a consultation room. 

‘So far, every pharmacy that has signed up has competed for at least one appointment,’ he said.   

Pharmacies will be paid £14 per appointment, in line with the fee they would receive under the GP referral pathway of the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service, he said.   

Mr Kaye contacted its CCG with a proposal for the service in December and was granted access to a share of the £250 million allocated to the NHS's winter access fund.   

‘We went from suggesting the service to the first [appointment] being delivered in about three weeks, it’s all happened so fast,’ Mr Kaye said.   

‘It’s so impressive that everyone, including pharmacies and the CCG, has managed to step up so quickly', he added.  

The service aims to serve 10,000 patients during its course. However, Mr Kay said that even if pharmacies do not manage to complete the 10,000 appointments by March, he will still consider the service a ‘success’.   

‘Even if we reach half the desired number of appointments, it will show the NHS what the demand is like, how much it would cost and how community pharmacy is capable to deliver more clinical service.’   

He also said that this sort of pharmacy service can work as a ‘model that others follow in the future.’