The Government and NHS England have published a Delivery plan for recovering access to primary care. The plan seeks to empower people by rolling out tools they can use to manage their own health; this will be supported by an investment of up to £645 million over two years to expand services offered by community pharmacies.
Michelle Riddalls, Chief Executive of PAGB, said “I’m delighted to see so many of the recommendations from our self-care strategy blueprint[i] being taken forward in the Delivery plan for recovering access to primary care. Of the ten recommendations made by PAGB and our partners in the blueprint, the Government is taking action on eight. This is a huge win for PAGB, our Self-Care Strategy Group partners and people who want to self-care but haven’t previously had the tools to do so.
“PAGB has been championing self-care for over 50 years and we are pleased to see the Government and NHS England embracing it. Self-care empowers people, enabling them to treat self-treatable conditions appropriately and effectively. It can protect vital NHS resources by reducing the number of unnecessary GP appointments and A&E attendances. It also narrows health inequalities and improves outcomes by equipping people with the tools to treat themselves effectively and appropriately. I’m really pleased that the Government and NHS England are now taking the steps to embed self-care into primary care practices.”
The Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Steve Barclay, made a statement in the House of Commons on the primary care recovery plan. He said that in order to take pressure off GPs we needed to make better “use of the skills of all clinicians working in primary care” including pharmacists. In doing so, the Government expects to free up to 10 million GP appointments a year by 2024-25.
Michelle Riddalls: “Self-care is the action people take for themselves and their families to promote and maintain good health and wellbeing, and to manage self-treatable conditions. We’ve always been keen to point out that self-care is not the absence of care, nor does it equate to a lack of care. Pharmacy teams are highly trained healthcare professionals who can provide expert advice on all self-treatable conditions. It’s great that this too has been recognised in the Delivery plan for recovering access to primary care.”
Encouragingly the plan states that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England will work together with industry to identify medicines which could be reclassified from prescription only to those that can be available in a pharmacy. The UK is considered a world leader in reclassification, with the largest number of active ingredients (over 150) available over the counter in Europe[ii].
Michelle Riddalls: “I’m excited that the Government has recognised the value that reclassifying medicines can have in improving people’s ability to self-care. This is what consumers want: a recent PAGB survey found that 74% of respondents believe more medicines should be available over the counter[iii]. We look forward to working with the MHRA, Department of Health and Social Care and NHS England to take this forward.”
[iii] Taking Care, Taking Control: Self-Care Attitudes 2022. Nov 2022. https://www.pagb.co.uk/content/uploads/2022/11/Taking-care-taking-control.-Self-care-attitudes-2022.pdf