Pharmacies asking to be first point of contact


A coalition of top primary healthcare experts have said that pharmacies and high-street health specialists are vital to the survival of the NHS and should be the initial contact point for tackling obesity levels and smoking.

This call has come from the group which represents all 11500 community pharmacies in Britain, Pharmacy Voice, and is in response to the warning from a medical think tank which has warned that cracks are appearing in the NHS as it struggles with budget cuts.

There are many pharmacies that are already offering some health advice, but the report which has been backed by the NHS Alliance, the National Community Hearing Association, the Optical Federation and the Pharmacy have urged that ‘high-street health specialists’ become the initial point of contact for minor illnesses and long term conditions which are normally handled by GPs and hospitals.

To aid the NHS with their number and financial burden, the groups have asked for anti-smoking advice, weight loss treatment, sexual health advice and alcohol awareness treatment to be available on the high street first.

This new report was revealed on the same day as an analysis by the King’s Fund think tank of the latest NHS data reveals that 25% of the NHS trusts finance directors are expecting an overspend on their budgets for this year, in excess of three million people have been waiting a minimum of 18 weeks for hospital treatment and large A&E departments have missed their targets for 51 weeks in a row.

The chief economist at The King’s Fund, John Appleby, said the latest reports indicate the amount of pressure the NHS is experiencing and the cracks are beginning to show in its performance. He said that these figures place emphasis on the requirement for new funding if they hope to maintain the services they provide.

The authors of the new primary care report are eager to point out that pharmacies should be able to step in and relieve some of the NHS burden. Pharmacies already deal with 1.6 million sick people on a daily basis.

The authors argue that most of the common ailments, such as colds and coughs, which make up 20% of the workload of a GP and costs the NHS around $2bn on an annual basis, could be dealt with by pharmacies and other high street healthcare professionals.

A survey within the report indicated that although community hearing aid services, optometrists and community pharmacies account for more than 40% of the primary care budget, fewer than 35% of people know which services they offer on the high street.

The chairman of the NHS Alliance, Dr Michael Dixon, said that primary care should be viewed as a cohesive whole with all the partners being involved. He fully supports the idea of high street health hubs and is of the opinion that they have an important role to play in offering support to the NHS.

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