Pharmacies will be to help ease pressure on GPs by managing and supplying more medicines such as contraception without a GP prescription, health secretary and deputy Prime Minister Dr Thérèse Coffey has announced.

Dr Coffey’s new Our Plan for Patients, published today, aims to free up time for GPs to see patients within two weeks when necessary.

The Department of Health and Social Care has said that pharmacies being able to manage and supply more medicines without a GP prescription could free up to two million general practice appointments a year.

The Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework (CPCF) for 22/23 and 23/24 was also published today, outlining some details of how pharmacies will support the Health Secretary's plan.

The plan will also see pharmacies take referrals from emergency care for minor illnesses or symptoms, such as a cough, headache or sore throat. Pharmacies will receive a fee of £14 per referral, in line with the existing Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS).

Our Plan for Patients will also include ‘changing funding rules to recruit extra support staff so hardworking GPs can focus on treating patients’.

The Government said this would ‘free up funding for practices to employ more roles, including GP assistants and more advanced nurse practitioners, in addition to the roles they are already able to recruit such as pharmacists, mental health practitioners and nursing associates.’

This would support the government’s commitment to ‘to deliver 26,000 more primary care staff to help improve access to appointments.’

It is not clear whether this would lead to an increase in the number of pharmacists employed by GP practices.

The one million volunteers who helped out in the pandemic will be asked to come forward again in a ‘national endeavour’ to help the NHS.

Dr Coffey is expected to said: 'I will put a laser-like focus on the needs of patients, making their priorities my priorities and being a champion for them on the issues that affect them most.

Our Plan for Patients will make it easier to get a general practice appointment and we will work tirelessly to deliver that, alongside supporting our hardworking GP teams.

‘We know this winter will be tough and this is just the first step in our work to bolster our valued NHS and social care services so people can get the care they need.’

Leading pharmacists responded to the Health Secretary’s new plan to relieve pressure on GPs, saying that pharmacies want to take on more clinical work but must be properly supported to do so.

However, they expressed disappointment with the CPCF published today, saying it does not adequately address funding or workforce challenges.

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