Scottish pharmacists will soon be able to prescribe over the phone to relieve GP pressure, NHS 24 has revealed.

NHS 24 – which is Scotland’s national out-of-hours service providing care through NHS 111 – announced it will trial a new scheme this winter to allow senior pharmacists and nursing staff to ‘safely triage’ and prescribe drugs for patients with ‘new health problems’ over the phone.

The news comes as the Scottish Government announced last week (5 September) that the minor ailments service (MAS) will be made available to all patients in the coming year.


‘Extra training’


NHS 24 medical director Dr Laura Ryan said: ‘NHS 24 employs a range of health professionals, including senior pharmacists and nursing staff.

‘During the coming winter, some of these senior clinical staff will have extra training, which allows them to safely triage and prescribe medicines for some patients with new health problems.

‘Professionals will operate within their own area of competence and prescribe using strict guidelines. Due to the individual way we assess people it is not possible to define who exactly would get a prescription as it would be based on the presenting symptoms of the caller.’

According to Dr Ryan, controlled drugs (CD) will not be prescribed in this way.

An NHS 24 spokesperson told The Pharmacist on Friday (7 September) that they do not have ‘any additional information at this stage’.


Saving patients ‘significant time’


Dr Ryan said that the scheme will save patients ‘significant time’ as it means they can simply go to their nearest open pharmacy to collect the prescribed treatment, having being ‘safely triaged by the NHS 24 clinician’.

She added: ‘This service is not for patients who have run out of their regular prescription. This group should continue to visit their local pharmacist in those instances.

‘People should also consider registering for MAS at pharmacies, which gives access to advice and treatment in their community.’