Miles Briggs: A prescription to ease GP crisis

Pharmacists could ease pressure on doctors. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Pharmacists could ease pressure on doctors. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
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Last Friday I was delighted to visit the Dear’s pharmacy in Oxgangs to launch a new policy designed to expand the capabilities of the pharmacy sector in Scotland.

Community pharmacists already play a vital role in supporting local patients but we believe that they can do even more and we want to empower them to achieve this. It is also no small benefit that by expanding the services offered by pharmacists, pressure can be removed from general practice.

Miles Briggs is a Conservative MSP for Lothian region

Miles Briggs is a Conservative MSP for Lothian region

Edinburgh residents know that we have a GP crisis across the city with many practices operating closed or restricted lists and people waiting sometimes weeks for routine appointments with a doctor. Pharmacists are well placed to help reduce the ever-increasing demands on primary care. In order for them to do this, community pharmacists should have access to appropriate patient records. The Royal Pharmaceutical Society agrees and says that, with patient consent, all pharmacists directly involved in patient care should have full read and write access to patient health records in the interest of high quality, safe and effective patient care.

Community pharmacists should also have the opportunity to become trained prescribers to allow more common ailments to be treated in pharmacy clinics and pharmacists should be able to lead medicine reviews for patients. Both the Community Pharmacy Service and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society agree with this and this will be key in delivering our aim of reducing the workload pressures currently faced by our GPs.

Indeed, the Pharmacy First initiative has demonstrated the impact and effectiveness of enabling prescribing community pharmacists to treat minor illness and ailments and to monitor long-term conditions. One pharmacy alone saved 60 appointments between GP and out of hours clinics in April.

Pharmacists should also be encouraged to take the lead in travel health services and follow the example of those like the Barnton Pharmacy, which has an inbuilt travel clinic; a “one stop shop” for all travel-related healthcare needs.

Making sure our pharmacy workforce is ready for the future is also very important and so we back the creation of a workforce plan for pharmacies to allow for increased clinical roles in pharmacy clinics, GP surgeries, care homes, and hospitals.

We must ensure we have enough Accuracy Checking Technicians and Pharmacy Technicians who can free up the pharmacist’s time to enable patient-facing care. We also want to work with pharmacists to explore whether we can expand 24-hour pharmacy services where this is appropriate, such as within 24-hour supermarkets.

Our pharmacists have huge expertise and knowledge and are a critically important part of our NHS. The Scottish Conservatives know that by giving them the opportunity to assist more patients in more ways we can both improve patient care and help alleviate the ever growing pressures on our overstretched family doctors.

Miles Briggs is a Lothians MSP and Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary.