Patients in England can now get treatment for seven common illnesses without needing to see a GP under a shake-up of pharmacy services, the NHS has announced.

From today (January 31), thousands of pharmacists in the country will be able to assess and treat patients who have a range of conditions from sore throats to infected insect bites without the need for a GP appointment or prescription.

NHS England said more than nine in 10 community pharmacies in England – 10,265 in total – will be offering the checks under the Pharmacy First scheme.

When should I see a pharmacist instead of a doctor?

Pharmacists are now able to assess and treat patients for:

  • sinusitis
  • sore throat
  • earache
  • infected insect bites
  • impetigo
  • shingles
  • uncomplicated urinary tract infections in women under 65

The move is intended to give people more places to get the care they need, freeing up 10 million GP appointments a year.

Amanda Pritchard, NHS chief executive, said: “GPs are already treating millions more people every month than before the pandemic, but with an ageing population and growing demand, we know the NHS needs to give people more choice and make accessing care as easy as possible.

Ambulance response categories explained 

People across England rightly value the support they receive from their high street pharmacist, and with eight in 10 living within a 20-minute walk of a pharmacy and twice as many pharmacies in areas of deprivation, they are the perfect spot to offer people convenient care for common conditions.”

Dr Leyla Hannbeck, chief executive of the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies, welcomed the move but warned that pharmacies are “severely underfunded to the tune of £1.2 billion now and as a direct result of that are reducing opening hours and even closing completely”.

She added: “This nonsense cannot go on and this stranglehold of chronic underfunding must be relieved now to ensure our community pharmacies continue to exist and can deliver to the potential the Government is expecting.”

Who is Dr Michael Mosley?

Recommended reading:

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak commented: “Community pharmacies already do a tremendous job at treating minor conditions and with the Pharmacy First service – backed by £645 million – we’re determined to go further and unlock their full potential to deliver routine care.

“Patients who need treatment or prescription medication for common conditions like an earache will now be able to get it directly from a pharmacy, without a GP appointment.

“This is about ensuring people get the treatment they need closer to home, while crucially helping deliver on our plan to cut waiting lists, by freeing up 10 million GP appointments a year, so people get the care they need more quickly.”