Having begun in October, the NHS Community Pharmacist Consultation Service has been hailed a “fantastic success”.
Some 114,275 patients with minor illnesses or urgent medication needs were seen through the project, which aims to reduce the number of GP and A&E visits.
Patients were given same-day referrals to their local pharmacist for assessment and treatment after calling the 111 helpline.
Call handlers dealt with 64,067 requests for urgent medication, for conditions including diabetes and asthma, during the first 10 weeks of the service launching.
And advice was given to 50,208 people with minor illnesses, such as sore throats and earaches.
The latest NHS performance figures show record numbers for attendances at A&E departments, ambulance call outs and NHS 111 requests for help.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “I want to see pharmacists ready and able to do much more to help people stay healthy and prevent pressure on hospitals.
“This ‘pharmacy first’ approach makes life easier for patients and helps reduce pressure on the NHS. I want to see more patients with minor illnesses assessed close to home, saving them unnecessary trips to A&E or the GP, and helping people get the care and advice that they need quicker.
“Thousands of patients receiving same-day advice from highly skilled pharmacists is exactly what we need. The community pharmacy is an integral and trusted part of the NHS and we want every patient with a minor illness to think ‘pharmacy first’.”
The service, which has seen 10,610 pharmacies sign up, is funded through the £2.5billion-a- year fund agreed in the five-year “community pharmacy contractual framework”.
The scheme is expected to expand to include referrals from GPs by the end of the year.
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