MID Worcestershire MP Nigel Huddleston has welcomed the launch of the Pharmacy First campaign.

Pharmacy First allows patients in England to get prescription-only treatment for seven common conditions at their local community pharmacy without the need for a GP appointment or prescription.

These conditions are sinusitis, acute sore throat, earache and minor ear infections, infected insect bite, impetigo, shingles and uncomplicated urinary tract infections in women.

The launch of the new service will offer patients more choice in how and where they access care by making even better use of its highly-trained community pharmacists.

Backed by up to £645 million, the expansion of community pharmacy is part of the government’s primary care recovery plan to make the NHS and social care system faster, simpler and fairer for all.

Mr Huddleston said: “The pandemic put huge pressures on our NHS services here in Worcestershire and, as we continue with our recovery, it is essential that patients receive the care they need quickly and easily.

That is why I am delighted that the government has launched Pharmacy First, using the skills of our pharmacists to treat more people in the community without the need for a GP appointment, speeding up their own care as well as reducing pressure on local GP services.

"At least 114 pharmacies have signed up to Pharmacy First across Herefordshire and Worcestershire ensuring that local people can access care.

"We are sticking with the plan to improve access to care and cut NHS waiting lists, delivering on the Prime Minister’s priority so that everyone can access the treatment they need.”

Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Victoria Atkins, said: “I’m determined to deliver faster, simpler, fairer access to care for patients and the expansion of Pharmacy First will mean patients can get treatment for common conditions without needing to see their GP first.

"This is good news for patients and good news for the NHS. It will free up millions of GP appointments per year and mean that patients can get quick and effective treatment from their local pharmacy.

"As four in five people live within a 20-minute walk of a pharmacy, for many seeing their local pharmacist will be the easiest option so this initiative will have real benefits for patients and help cut NHS waiting lists.”

Ninety-five per cent of pharmacies in England will be offering the expanded services.

Pharmacy First will also be integrated into the NHS website so when people look for certain symptoms they will be signposted to a pharmacy.

Making greater use of community pharmacists’ clinical skills and capabilities will offer a welcome boost to support GPs and patients by releasing around 10 million GP appointments per year.

The NHS Long Term Workforce Plan commits £2.4 billion to fund additional education and training places for pharmacists over the next five years.

From 2026 all newly-qualified pharmacists will be independent prescribers on the day of registration.

This will equip pharmacists with the skills and knowledge to provide even more clinical care and expand the clinical role of pharmacists across the NHS including in community pharmacy.

Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief executive, said:  “GPs are already treating millions more people every month than before the pandemic but, with an ageing population and growing demand, we know the NHS needs to give people more choice and make accessing care as easy as possible.

“People across England rightly value the support they receive from their high street pharmacist and, with eight in 10 living within a 20-minute walk of a pharmacy and twice as many pharmacies in areas of deprivation, they are the perfect spot to offer people convenient care for common conditions.

“This is great news for patients – from today you can pop into one of more than 10,000 high street pharmacies in England to get a consultation on seven common conditions including earache, a sore throat or sinusitis at a convenient time with many pharmacies open late into the evening.

“This is all part of major transformation in the way the NHS delivers care with the health service determined to giving people more choice in how they can access treatment.”

Now Pharmacy First will go even further, building on this success and empowering pharmacists to use their expertise to delivering a major boost to primary care access.