Free advice provided by community pharmacists in Wales has prevented the need for an additional 35,300 GP appointments each week, a recent audit has suggested.

The Community Pharmacy Wales (CPW) audit, which looked at 522 Welsh pharmacies, found that each pharmacy has conducted an average of 15.5 unremunerated consultations per day this year.

If this figure is extrapolated across all714 pharmacies in Wales, it leads toa over 11,000 consultations taking place each day, CPW said.. The audit found that over half (53%) of patients attending pharmacy consultations said they would have gone to see their GP in the first instance.

If this number of patients sought advice from their GP instead of visiting their pharmacist, it would have resulted in an additional 35,300 GP appointments per week, according to CPW’s calculations.

A further 3.1% of patients said they would have visited A&E or minor injuries, resulting in an increase of 2,000 appointments per week, CPW estimated.

The audit, carried out between 28 September 2020 and 9 October 2020, was commissioned to capture the range of unremunerated and usually unrecorded advice that community pharmacies are giving to patients and local communities.

CPW said it also hoped to use the data to assess the impact these consultations were having on patients and the wider healthcare system.

Judy Thomas, director of contractor services at CPW, said: ‘Until now, discussions about expanding the clinical care in the community have been hampered by the lack of quantitative and qualitative data to demonstrate the frequency and value of these consultations.

‘Over 11,000 advice sessions per day is a huge amount of engagement and equates to saving over 35,000 GP appointments and 2,000 A&E appointments. This demonstrates without question the huge value that community pharmacies possess in relieving stress on other parts of NHS Wales.’

She added: ‘The audit also shows that nearly half the patients who received advice did so without medicine being dispensed. This demonstrates that patients often need reassurance rather than a prescription.’

In September, a PSNC audit of 198,043 consultations found pharmacies in England are carrying out an average of 15 consultations a day, which equates to over a million a week across all 11,200 English community pharmacies.

PSNC calculated that pharmacies had saved GPs 492,000 appointments per week – or 65 appointments per GP practice per week.