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Plans proposed to ease pressures on GPs

Posted on the 11th May 2023

GP Surgery Changes

New plans to ease pressures on GP surgeries in England will allow patients to get prescriptions for seven common conditions directly from pharmacies.

The reforms, set out by the government and NHS England, are designed to free up 15 million GP appointments over the next two years – around 2 per cent of the total.

Those suffering from earache, a sore throat, sinusitis, impetigo, shingles, infected insect bites, and uncomplicated urinary tract infections (UTIs) in women are set to be prescribed medicine by pharmacists without the need to see a doctor or nurse for the first time.

Patients will also be able to access blood pressure checks and obtain contraceptive pills from pharmacies. Additionally, they can self-refer for certain needs, such as booking in for NHS physiotherapy or podiatry without having to ask their family doctor first.

The proposals follow new measures announced recently to make it easier to get GP appointments utilizing an online system.

The GP plan comes amid mounting concern about services.

The latest GP patient survey shows 13 per cent rate the service as poor or very poor overall, with nearly half complaining they did not find it easy to get through on the phone and nearly a quarter saying they were not happy with the appointment they were offered.

In the past five months, 24 million consultations took place more than a fortnight after being requested by the patient – almost 5 million each month on average, data shows.

Ministers hope the proposed reforms will launch this winter after consultation with the industry.

However, concerns have been raised over how pharmacies will cope with extra demand.

Data shows there are now fewer local chemists than at any time since 2015. Rising operational costs, staff shortages, and reduced government financial support have been blamed.

Meanwhile, medical leaders say the crux of the problem is that there are not enough GPs.

The government target to recruit an extra 6,000 GPs by the end of this parliament looks almost certain to be missed.

When the promise was made at the end of 2019, there were just over 28,000 full-time equivalent GPs. At the end of March, that number had fallen to less than 27,500.

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