Community pharmacists are “ready and willing” to act to reduce the “tsunami” of patient demand currently falling on GPs.

The statement has been made in response to a poll commissioned by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) that stated 98% of GPs do not feel they have sufficient resources to deliver safe patient care seven days a week.

There are a number of community pharmacy services where it is said the profession could “speedily reduce pressure” on family doctors already laid out in the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee’s (PSNC) Five Point Plan.

Alastair Buxton, director of NHS Services at PSNC, said: “Community pharmacists and their teams are ready and willing to provide further services that reduce pressure on our overburdened GP practice colleagues, but this does of course need appropriate funding to be made available.”

Following the survey findings Dr Maureen Baker, chair of RCGP, said: "The results of our polls show that general practice is on a knife-edge, with GPs feeling that there is insufficient resourcing to deliver a five-day service, let alone a seven-day service, and two-thirds of patients feeling that the high number of consultations being carried out by GPs is a threat to the standard of care they can provide to their patients.”

While Dr Baker identified the increasing prevalence of serious long-term conditions contributing to a “tsunami of increasing patient demand”, unnecessary GP visits could be prevented by better use of community pharmacy.

Alastair Buxton, director of NHS Services at PSNC

Alastair Buxton, director of NHS Services at PSNC

Buxton said: “There are many examples of how the national commissioning of targeted healthcare services through community pharmacy could help prevent ill health, assist people to live healthier lives, and improve care for patients while at the same time preventing unnecessary GP visits and hospital admissions.

“In our recent Pharmacy Five Point Plan we set out a number of national community pharmacy services that NHS England could commission very quickly to realise these benefits.”

The plan calls for pharmacists to be commissioned to operate an urgent supply service so they can supply routine NHS prescription medication at weekends and out-of-hours if patients run out.

Other calls to action include using community pharmacists to advise people with symptoms, offering treatment or referral, supporting the elderly and frail, supporting people with long-term conditions and commissioning risk assessments for people potentially at risk of having or developing COPD.

Buxton said: “The community pharmacy network has already demonstrated the work it can do through the provision of services including the nationally commissioned flu vaccination service, which went live in September 2015, and the number of patients accessing the service through pharmacy shows how much they value the convenience of pharmacies."