The number of North Wales pharmacies where people can receive assessment, diagnosis and prescribed medication for minor illnesses is set to more than double over the winter months.
Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board has announced that the number of pharmacies providing an NHS independent prescriber service will increase from 11 to 25, as primary care services across the region prepare for their busiest winter on record.
The increase will enable more people to access face-to-face assessments, free of charge, as well as receive prescribed medication for a range of minor illnesses, including ear, nose and throat problems, skin conditions and urinary infections.
All pharmacies in North Wales are currently able to provide free expert advice and guidance on treating common conditions and their symptoms, often without the need for an appointment, offering a quick and convenient alternative to seeking support from a GP surgery.
The enhanced service provided by Independent Prescribing Pharmacists extends this to enable people to be prescribed medication, such as antibiotics, which has traditionally only been possible through GPs and certain other medical professionals.
In addition to the five-year training pathway that all pharmacists complete to qualify, Independent Prescribing Pharmacists providing this service in North Wales also undertake an intensive prescribing course and an additional course on minor illness through Bangor University.
The independent prescribing service is currently provided in pharmacies on the Llŷn Peninsula, and in Blaenau Ffestiniog, Mold, Corwen, Coedpoeth, Colwyn Bay and Prestatyn.
The planned increase over the coming months will ensure that the scheme is available in all six counties of North Wales, and in around 15 per cent of pharmacies across the region.
Pharmacist Jenny White, from the Rhosneigr Pharmacy on Anglesey, is among those who will offer the enhanced service when she qualifies in the coming weeks.
“The benefit of community pharmacy is that people can access healthcare pretty much instantly,” she explained.
“My customers are able to ring in or pop in and book an appointment on the same day, most of the time.
“The additional benefit with the Independent Prescribing Service is that people will soon be able to come and see me for their minor acute conditions and I’ll be able to make a full assessment, diagnosis, treatment plan and prescribe medication, if appropriate. They won’t have to ring their doctor’s surgery, wait for an appointment, or go through a telephone consultation triage. If things are more complex we have robust referral systems in place to make sure people get the care they need.
“I’m utilising the skills I already have and I’ve developed them further to be able to offer services that are needed in the village.”
Adam Mackridge, Strategic Lead for Community Pharmacy at BCUHB, said:
“We’re encouraging more people with minor illnesses or conditions to take advantage of the free, expert advice provided at their local community pharmacy, which can usually be accessed more quickly than other services.
“Pharmacists are highly skilled clinical experts and they are supported by a team of Pharmacy Technicians and other staff who have also undergone comprehensive training.
“All pharmacies providing these services have private consultation rooms where you will be able to discuss minor ailments confidentially, in the same way you would with your GP.
“As the training to become an Independent Prescribing Pharmacist takes quite a lot of time, rollout will take time, but new pharmacies will begin providing this service year on year, helping to increase choice and provide better access for patients.”
For access to free health advice, 24 hours a day, including details on your nearest community pharmacy, please visit the NHS 111 Wales website.
For further information on how to access the most appropriate healthcare services please visit the BCUHB website.