Over 700 patients have already been seen by a pharmacist-led pilot scheme in Wales designed to slash the number of prescriptions being given out for sore throats.
The pilot, run by the Cwm Taf and Betsi Cadwaladr health boards in around 70 pharmacies, allows community pharmacists to prescribe antibiotics for patients with sore throats.
Cwm Taf started the scheme in November 2018 and of 400 patients seen between then and the start of February, only 25% were prescribed antibiotics. The health board said the vast majority of those followed up on did not require or access further services and over 90% said they would have booked a GP appointment if the scheme wasn’t available.
Betsi Cadwaladr started the scheme in January 2019 and of 390 patients seen in the first six weeks, only 14% needed antibiotics – but 90% said they would have gone to the GP if the scheme wasn’t available.
‘Assess and treat’
The service is part of the Common Ailments Scheme, which encourages patients to visit their community pharmacist instead of a GP if they need NHS advice to manage common symptoms, such as sore throat, heartburn, conjunctivitis, thrush and threadworm.
Pharmacists involved in the sore throat pilot assess a patient’s symptoms by doing a throat examination, including a simple swab test that gives results in minutes.
This will determine whether the patient’s sore throat is caused by a viral or bacterial infection and the pharmacist can then provide advice and treatment with no need for the patient to see their GP.
‘Supporting primary care’
Suzanne Scott-Thomas, clinical director of medicines management at Cwm Taf health board, said: ‘We are very pleased with the initial findings of this pilot and will be considering commissioning in more community pharmacies in time for winter.
‘This service supports primary care in freeing up more time in GP practices so that sicker patients can be seen. It also supports the appropriate use of antibiotics.’