Pharmacists 'to Be Given Right to Prescribe So GPs Have More Time With Patients'

Benjamin Cooper & David Lynch

October 11, 2021

Pharmacists will be allowed to write prescriptions under plans reportedly being considered by England's Health Secretary Sajid Javid.

Mr Javid last month vowed the Government will "do a lot more" to ensure GPs see more patients face-to-face following complaints from the public.

The proposals would see more prescriptions provided through pharmacies and hospitals for routine illnesses to allow doctors more time to see patients in person, according to The Sunday Times.

GPs will also reportedly be able to pass off bureaucratic processes such as providing supporting medical evidence to the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) over a patient's fitness to drive.

The plans are expected to include sanctions for doctors who do not increase the number of face-to-face appointments with patients, the paper added.

Face-to-Face Appointments

GPs have been criticised in recent weeks for not offering enough face-to-face appointments for patients.

However, the Royal College of GPs says it is a "misconception" that GPs aren’t seeing patients in person.

In his speech to the Tory Party Conference last Tuesday Mr Javid reiterated that people expected "to be able to see their GP, in the way that they choose".

In August 2020 the Royal Pharmaceutical Society called for pharmacists to be given powers to change some prescriptions. It proposed amendments to allow pharmacists to make changes to the quantities, strength and formulation dispensed, and supply another generic version of a medicine on a prescription, without having to contact the prescriber every time.

It was argued this would speed up access to medicines for patients, reduce the workload of GPs and give pharmacists more face-to-face time with patients.

GP 'Postcode Lottery'

Meanwhile, patients are facing a "postcode lottery" when it comes to seeing a GP in England, with the worst-affected areas served by half the number of doctors as the best.

New analysis has shown that there is on average one GP per 2038 people across the country, a 5% rise since 2015.

But there are also huge disparities across England, with some areas seeing an increase of around 40% in people per GP over the same period.

It means Hull now has one GP for every 2821 people, more than double the 1279 people per GP in Wirral.

The Liberal Democrats, who commissioned the analysis by the House of Commons Library, have called on the Government to train more GPs.

Liberal Democrat Health Spokesperson Munira Wilson MP said: "These figures reveal a postcode lottery of care that is leaving people struggling to get GP appointments or waiting weeks to be seen.

"But instead of fixing the GP shortage crisis, the Conservatives are making it worse by failing to train the new doctors we desperately need."

She added: "Families rely on being able to see a GP when they or their children fall sick to get advice, access treatment and get well again. The Government must invest more in our GP practices and train up more doctors, to ensure patients get the fair deal they deserve."

Best and Worst

The areas with the highest numbers of inhabitants per GP are Fylde and Wyre (2833), Hull (2761), Calderdale (2606), Thurrock (2592) and Portsmouth (2559).

The lowest five are Liverpool (1614), Oxfordshire (1688), Wirral (1720), West Suffolk (1731) and East Staffordshire (1745).

The stats do not include trainee GPs and are based on the population in each area rather than the number of registered patients.

Recent analysis from the BMA shows there are over 1800 fewer fully qualified, full-time equivalent (FTE) GPs now than there were in 2015.

Between June 2020 and July 2021, the number of GP partners fell by 918.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "The number of full-time GPs increased between March 2016 and March 2021 and, last year, a record-breaking number of doctors started training as GPs.

"We are grateful for the tireless efforts of GPs throughout the pandemic and have invested £270 million to expand GP capacity, on top of £1.5 billion until 2023/24.

"We are committed to increasing the number of training places available for GPs to 4,000 a year and creating an extra 50 million appointments annually to improve patient access."

This article contains information from PA Media.

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