A NHS pharmacy scheme is speeding up access to clinical advice for patients, as well as reducing pressure on the wider health system.
The Digital Minor Illness Referral Service enables trained NHS111 health advisors to refer people with minor health concerns to their chosen pharmacy for a clinical assessment and same-day booked consultation with a pharmacist, during the day, at the weekend and out of hours.
Set up a year ago as a pilot scheme in the North East, the service is now being offered in three new pilot areas: London, Devon and the East Midlands covering 17.8 million people in total.
Evaluation of the North East scheme found that minor illness cases being referred to in-hours GPs from NHS111 fell from 70% to 40%.
Anne Joshua, Head of Pharmacy Integration at NHS England, and a pharmacist, said:
Pharmacists are clinically trained to advise and offer treatments for a range of minor conditions including coughs, colds, allergic reactions and pain and swellings. This scheme aims to make the most of those clinical skills to help people get the advice they need as conveniently as possible.