AN Uppermill pharmacist is supporting moves to ease the workload on busy GPs by becoming an essential part of the frontline in patient care.
GP numbers have fallen by more than 1,000 since 2015 though NHS England has increased its proportion of the budget spent on general practice in a bid to recruit 5,000 more GPs.
But patients continue to complain about long time waiting times and difficulties trying to contact surgeries by phone to arrange appointments.
Michael Johnson, manager of Well Pharmacy on High Street, recently met with Oldham East and Saddleworth MP Debbie Abrahams to discuss how he and colleagues can share the workload currently placed on GPs and hospitals.
“At the moment there doesn’t seem to be any definite plans in the Oldham area to utilise he skills of community pharmacies,” said Michael.
“There doesn’t appear to be any pathways to use community pharmacies to provide services to relieve the workload.
“The pressure is there we know that. Patients are saying all the time they are having to wait a long time to see their GP.
“One of the options explored in the Bury area is using pharmacies as a triage service.
“Patients try to phone into the surgery every morning to try and get slots not knowing whether it is appropriate enough for the doctor or whether we could deal with it.
“If patients came to use first then we could sort who needed to see the doctors and who we could treat. That would alleviate some of the pressure that is most definitely feel at the front end of the surgery.”
Mrs Abrahams said: “We have real issues around the right levels of doctors and GP’s in particular.
“There are also immense demands on A&E so pharmacies are a way to alleviate these pressures.
“Pharmacies should be one of the options people consider rather than going directly to a GP or certainly to A&E.
“This should be one of the tool kits that we need to use and develop as much as possible.
“We want to make the most of the exceptional skills pharmacies have and ensure people get the most appropriate treatment in the most appropriate place.
“It is not always essential people go and see GPs and pharmacies can help with triaging.”
Mujahid Al-Amin, Oldham lead for Greater Manchester Local Pharmaceutical Committee, said:
“Pharmacies are an underdeveloped resource.
“We are so accessible to the public because anyone can walk in off the street without need of an appointment and ask for advice or ask for treatment.
“But they are not being referred into pharmacies from GP practices, from A&Es or from walking centres. So, it feels we are missing an opportunity to better support patients.
“We are screaming out to provide more health care services and to try and diagnose earlier and to provide that advice or help with prevention in long term conditions as well.
“We want to provide more health care services for the local community, so they don’t need to see their GP.”
Brexit stockpiling and worldwide shortage of ingredients has been blamed for a shortage of some medicines.
Michael said: “It’s been tough in the last few months. Quite what is driving that I am not sure.
“It has been an issue for all the pharmacies around here,” added Michael.
“We are having to direct patients between ourselves and work together.
“But is impacting on some patients where they are having to go back to the GP to find alternatives.
“That is impacting on the GP because it is giving them more work to do.”