Pharmacies treat patients to avoid NHS strike chaos
- Pharmacists should be called upon to ease the pressure on the NHS over the winter
- They could diagnose patients with minor ailments and prescribe antibiotics
- The move would divert 65 million appointments away from GP practices every year
- It’s because 100,000 nurses plan to walk out the week of December 15
Pharmacists will be called upon to ease the pressure on the NHS this winter as thousands of nursing staff will go on strike.
The move could allow chemists to diagnose patients with minor ailments and prescribe antibiotics in what would be an unpresented move.
It is hoped this will help reduce the demand for GP appointments and reduce record waiting times and backlogs within the healthcare system.
It comes as 100,000 nurses plan to walk out later this month, raising fears that thousands of elective procedures and screening appointments will be canceled.
Pharmacists will be called upon to ease the pressure on the NHS this winter as thousands of nurses plan to go on strike. Photo: NHS personnel march from St. Thomas’ Hospital to Downing Street in the summer
The strike, which will be the largest action of its kind, will take place between December 15 and 20. The union leaders are demanding a wage increase higher than inflation.
Yesterday Health Secretary Steve Barclay wrote to the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) and the GMB unions, threatening the strike action, urging them to keep staffing levels to a minimum to protect emergency services in case of accidents.
Last week, unions announced emergency and cancer departments would be hit by strikes. However, pediatric intensive care, neonatal services, kidney dialysis, chemotherapy and intensive care will be shielded from the action.
Allowing chemists to play this additional role is expected to eliminate 65 million GP appointments each year, reports the Telegraph.
If the plans go ahead, pharmacists will be allowed to diagnose patients with minor ailments. This includes handing out prescriptions for skin conditions or antibiotics for women with urinary tract infections (UTIs)
If the plans go ahead, community pharmacists could diagnose patients with Strep A after an outbreak killed six children in a seven-day period, prompting a warning to parents from the UK Health Security Agency.
Pharmacists could hand out prescriptions for minor ailments such as cream for skin infections and antibiotics for women with urinary tract infections (UTIs).
The move that will ease the pressure on the NHS is expected to cost the government around £400m.
However, it is unlikely to continue before Christmas as time is needed to train staff and create new contracts for pharmacies.
A similar plan had been created when Therese Coffey was working at the Department of Health earlier this year, but it was scrapped after GPs raised concerns about the effect of antimicrobial resistance.
It is clear that more than seven million people in the UK are waiting for treatment, with thousands more scheduled procedures expected to be canceled if the strikes continue.
Earlier this week, trade unions GMB and Unison announced that 90,000 ambulance workers have voted to strike
Cancellations can affect both routine surgeries and cancer screenings.
The strikes come after more than 300,000 members were voted in by the Royal College of Nursing in the first union action vote in the union’s 106-year history.
As a result, affected hospitals will have a ‘bank holiday’ service that is expected to affect thousands of patients, leading to delays and cancellations for routine treatments from surgery to chemotherapy. Emergency care is not compromised.
Earlier this week, the GMB and Unison unions announced that 90,000 ambulance workers had voted to strike.
Paramedics, emergency room assistants and 999 call handlers are among the staff at nine trusts in England and Wales who will take action.
It is the latest wave of strikes as the winter of discontent continues. Health workers are part of a wave of strikes in the industrial sector.
Those working in the rail industry, education and civil service are among those taking action or planning dates, with the fire union being the last to start voting for its members.
NHS England has been contacted for comment.