NHS could save £1bn each year by treating patients at pharmacies instead of hospitals or GP clinics, says professional body

Sarah Spickernell
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Treating patients in pharmacies could reduce A&E visits by 650,000 each year (Source: Getty)
The NHS could save over £1bn each year if common colds and other everyday illnesses were treated at pharmacies.
According to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), “minor ailment centres” would take pressure off the NHS by reducing GP consultations by 18m and A&E visits by 650,000 annually.
The centres already operate nationally in community pharmacies in Scotland and Northern Ireland, and the Welsh government is currently running trials of the service. Approximately a third of English pharmacies have them, but the RPS wants them to be introduced to all pharmacies.
"The NHS can't afford to wait any longer to create capacity in the system. We need to be more strategic and change the services on offer to the public to make best use of the NHS workforce,” said Ash Soni, President of the RPS.
"Fast, same-day access to community pharmacists will be of huge benefit to patients, doctors, nurses and the bank balance of the NHS."
The types of ailments that could be treated at the centres range from stomach aches to eye problems, and the RPS says standard of treatment would be no different to that received at a hospital or GP surgery.
A study conducted by the University of Aberdeen showed that approximately three per cent of all A&E consultations and 5.5 per cent of all GP consultations for common illnesses could be dealt with in local pharmacies.
Margaret Watson, lead researcher in the study, said: "Treating these common problems places a substantial burden on A&E and GP services, especially over the winter period.
"This can increase waiting times, reduce availability of care for more serious conditions and incurs much greater expenditure on treatment than necessary.
"We must make the best use of NHS resources and give people the right advice in the right place, whilst making the most of the skills of NHS staff. You don't need an A&E consultation to treat a short-term cough or a simple upset stomach."
Spend per head in UK compared to other countries
While the cost of the NHS is one of the main concerns of the UK government, when looked at from a global perspective the UK actually spends less per capita on healthcare than most countries in the West.
Research carried out by the Commonwealth Fund in Washington earlier this year showed that the UK currently spends less money on healthcare per head than the US, Australia, and many of its European neighbours.
The study, entitled “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall”, compared the healthcare spend per capita of eleven countries, using data collected from between 2011 and 2013.

During the time period, the UK spent an average of $3,405 per head on healthcare, which was less than half the $8,508 spent per head in the US. Of all the countries included, only New Zealand spent less than the UK at $3,182 per head.

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