Doctor casts doubt over Rishi Sunak’s plan to free up 15million GP appointments

Rishi Sunak wants to 'end the 8am scramble'

Rishi Sunak’s plan to ease pressure on GPs by allowing pharmacists to write prescriptions will not have as much impact as he thinks, according to medical experts. The Prime Minister is hopeful that allowing patients to get a prescription for seven conditions from a pharmacy, rather than having to see their doctor, will free up 15 million GP appointments over the next two years.

Medications that pharmacists would be able to hand out would treat conditions including earache, a sore throat, sinusitis, impetigo, shingles, infected insect bites and uncomplicated urinary tract infections (UTIs) in women. And patients would be able to get oral contraception directly from pharmacies. Mr Sunak announced the measures on a visit to a pharmacy in Southampton.

He said: “I am getting on with delivering on my five priorities and transforming primary care is the next part of this Government’s promise to cut NHS waiting lists.”

“I know how frustrating it is to be stuck on hold to your GP practice when you or a family member desperately need an appointment for a common illness.

“We will end the 8am rush and expand the services offered by pharmacies, meaning patients can get their medication quickly and easily.”

But Dr Helen Wall, who is a partner at a GP surgery in Bolton, Greater Manchester, says she is “doubtful” it will release that many appointments.

Speaking to, she said: “I think it’s going to take some time to implement given the details and terms needs to be negotiated and safety aspects like IT (so we know what the patient has been given and so on) are set up and running well.

“If all of that can be achieved, it will help but I am doubtful it will release 15 million appointments as stated.

“As more and more stuff gets stripped out of GP to other allied health professionals we are left with the most complex cases that take more time.

“We see an awful lot more than seven conditions which are usually our quickest and simplest to treat.”

And Jana Abelovska, Superintendent Pharmacist at Click Pharmacy, says there needs to be more investment in pharmacies in order for the plan to be successful.

She said: “Pharmacies could do with an increase in funding to match the rise in responsibility, currently, with the fears that not all pharmacies will be able to provide needed services this is something that must be addressed. 

“Ideally, extra responsibilities for pharmacies should be supported or compensated with additional funding.

“Pharmacies and their pharmacists are already overworked and could therefore do with the added support from the Government.” 

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Ms Abelovska also says that she thinks pharmacists could be tasked with helping ease the pressure on GPs by giving prescriptions for more than just the seven conditions announced by the Government.

She added: “While conditions such as earache, sore throats and impetigo can now be treated by pharmacies without GP appointments, there are a few more conditions that could be added to the list.

“For example, people suffering from common conditions such as asthma could receive medication at a faster rate without having to see their doctor first.

“Asthma sufferers can struggle immensely with breathing, therefore, avoiding prolonged delays in getting treatment would prove positive for people with this condition.”

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