The health secretary, Sajid Javid, has said the Government is working on a minor ailments ‘model’ that will send ‘more patients directly to pharmacies’ without having to go to first see a GP.

Speaking at the National Pharmacy Association’s (NPA) centenary dinner this week (24 November), Mr Javid said the Government was 'working up' plans to launch a pharmacy first model in England.

This new service will ‘help us to beat the backlog and make sure that even more people can benefit from [pharmacists’] brilliant advice and care’, he said.

‘Prevention is better than cure. I want community pharmacies to be at the very heart of primary care - not just treating people but preventing people from becoming patients in the first place.

‘I want to see more pharmacies dealing with healthy people with minor illnesses and being referred to and treated in their community pharmacies,’ he explained.

In November 2020, the community pharmacy consultation service was extended to receive referrals from GPs after it was initially launched months earlier to take referrals from 111.

However, since its launch, contractors have expressed concern that the service is flawed after receiving very few, and in some cases, no referrals from GPs.

Mr Javid added: ‘We’re transforming every aspect of health and care in this country, riding the greatest wave of innovation in the history of healthcare and embracing the spirit of integration that has seen us overcome traditional boundaries.’

This month, the CPCS has been extended in some areas of England to include referral from urgent care settings, in a bid to ease pressure on UEC through the coming winter period.

Mr Javid said: ‘You have so much expertise to bring, especially your comprehensive knowledge of medicines and I want to make sure we are making the very best use of your talents, to provide care in a quicker and easier way.’

Andrew Lane, NPA chair, welcomed Mr Javid’s comments and said that pharmacy does have the potential to ‘dramatically improve access to healthcare’, in part by ‘[freeing] up well over 20 million GP and hospital appointments'.

He added: ‘However, funding cuts for pharmacies in England need to be reversed if we are to power our can-do agenda for improving patient care and tackling the NHS backlog.’

Covid contribution

During a pre-recorded video message, The Prince of Wales thanked pharmacy teams for their ‘tireless efforts’ during the Covid pandemic.

He said that pharmacies are ‘a place where science & society meet’ and a ‘part of the fabric of neighbourhoods’ across the UK.

‘Pharmacies are about people and places, not just pills,’ he added.

Mr Javid also thanked pharmacy teams for their efforts over the pandemic. ‘You have played a starring role in this pandemic,’ he said.

He added: ‘You stayed open to get medicines to those who need them; you’ve helped us make lateral flow tests part of people’s everyday routine, and you’ve also put jabs in the arms of people to tackle both cold and flu.’