111 helps thousands get fast NHS check on the high street

Date published: 24 June 2020

A new NHS scheme has seen tens of thousands of people in the North West get a fast, safe, face-to-face consultation with a local pharmacist during the coronavirus pandemic.

Since the programme went live last autumn, more than 58,000 people across the region have now benefited from the NHS Community Pharmacy Consultation Service – more than any other region in England. Around 23,000 referrals have taken place since the NHS stepped up its response to the virus, allowing GPs and hospital staff to focus on those who need their help the most.

Available through the free, fast and popular NHS 111 phone or online service, the new service gives patients the option of being instantly booked into a face-to-face consultation with a pharmacist for a range of minor illnesses, or to get an urgent supply of a previously prescribed medicine.

Those who would benefit can choose one of the more than 1,500 participating pharmacies in the North West after an initial assessment by a call advisor.

Local pharmacies have now joined GP practices, out of hours GP and dental services, and Urgent Treatment Centres among the range of alternatives to hospital A&Es than people can be booked into if they need urgent care.

Dr David Levy, NHS North West Medical Director, said: “The pharmacy consultation service is helping people to get access to the right help fast, without the need to go to hospital A&Es or their GP.

“During the coronavirus pandemic, it has provided a safe and convenient way for people who don’t have the virus to get medicines urgently or help for minor illnesses and they will be able to continue to benefit from this service as we move into the next phase.”

Available through the NHS 111 phone or online service, those who would benefit are booked in for a face-to-face consultation with a pharmacist for a range of minor illnesses or to get an urgent supply of a previously prescribed medicine.

With the NHS encouraging more people to come forward for care who might have held back due to Covid-19 concerns, local pharmacies are gearing up to provide an increasing number of consultations safely, so that all those who would benefit can be referred.

The 10 most common symptom groups referred under the minor illness scheme as at the end of April were:

  • Eye or eyelid problems
  • Sore throat and/or hoarse voice
  • Skin problems
  • Diarrhoea
  • Wrist, hand, or finger pain or swelling
  • Lower back pain
  • Headache
  • Bites or stings, insect or spider
  • Ankle or foot pain or swelling

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