Pharmacists can ‘without a doubt’ help GPs clear the backlog of patients resulting from the pandemic, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners has said.

Responding to a question at Health and Social Care Committee meeting today (21 September), Professor Martin Marshall CBE said that pharmacies can help GPs cope with their high workload through the community pharmacy consultation service (CPCS) - for which he said he understood that ‘the uptake for has not been great’.

‘The low uptake is something we are working on very closely with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), we run webinars with them and we plan to have a round table with them very soon to talk through how we can expand that,’ he said.

Community pharmacists have expressed concern that the CPCS, launched in 2019, is flawed after receiving very few, and in some cases, no referrals from GPs.

According to NHS England, around 10% of online GP consultations could potentially be referred to pharmacies via the CPCS.

CPCS would be extremely helpful Professor Marshall said the public must also be educated on what services community pharmacies offer.

‘If you had a public that was supported and informed on decisions on when and when they do not need professional help, then that CPCS would be extremely helpful. There is a fair amount of what we see in general practice that could be managed by self-care rather than professional care.’

In May, community pharmacists called on NHS England to provide proper funding for pharmacy consultations, to help reduce the burden on other parts of the NHS and improve patient care.

The comments came after an audit from the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) revealed that pharmacies across England are providing around 1.1 million consultations every week without remuneration – and after a BBC report published on the same day (27 May) warned that rising patient numbers and a shortage of GPs were threatening to overwhelm the healthcare system.