People in London will receive quicker, more convenient access to NHS care from their high street pharmacy, thanks to improved access to primary care.
For the first time, patients who need prescription medication will be able to get it directly from a pharmacy, without a GP appointment, for seven common conditions including earache, sore throat and urinary tract infections by next winter.
The new blueprint sets out actions to improve access to care, better support patients to manage their own health and modernise general practice for future generations.
Kevin Tai, a specialist musculoskeletal physiotherapist in Lewisham sees patients with joint and muscle pain through a self-referral service without them needing to see their GP first. “This ensures that patients are seen at the right time and get expert advice on how to best manage their condition” explains Kevin.
Self-referral for key services including physiotherapy, hearing tests and podiatry is set to be rolled out across the capital over the next two years to benefit all Londoners.
GP surgeries in London have also been working with hospital consultants to cut waiting times by providing patients with specialist advice without the need for a referral. Evergreen Primary Care Centre in Enfield has used this approach with patients with disorders of the urinary system and has reduced the number of people needing to be referred for specialist appointments by a quarter.
Ending the 8am ‘rush’ for appointments is a key part of the plan, with no patient having to wait on hold only to be told to call back another day for help.
This will be supported by investment in better phone technology for GP teams enabling them to manage multiple calls and redirect them to other specialists, such as pharmacists and mental health practitioners, if more suitable.
A digital access hub in Central London Healthcare (a GP federation) is already taking this approach, by sharing resources to manage online consultation requests on behalf of 33 central London practices and their 273,000 patients. Over 12 months the hub saved more than 6,000 GP appointments and more than 5,000 hours of practice administrative time, freeing up capacity to help other patients.
Dr Chris Streather, Regional Medical Director for the NHS in London, said: “The care and support provided by local pharmacists and GPs is highly valued by patients and with unprecedented demand for appointments it’s essential we expand and transform the way we provide care for our local communities and make these services fit for the future.
“Today’s plan will do just that, by helping Londoners see the most appropriate healthcare professional for their needs, and in many cases, without the need for a referral. This will in turn help us to free up thousands of GP appointments for those who need them most, as well as supporting staff so that they can do less admin and spend more time with patients.
“Over the last 75 years, the NHS has always innovated and adapted to meet the needs of each generation and as we approach the 75th birthday, we are doing that for primary care services – providing easy and convenient care as close to home as possible.”