The Scottish Government has published its plans to bolster the NHS over the next five years, tackle the backlog in care and give community pharmacies a wider remit to help more people needing treatment and support in local communities.
The NHS Recovery Plan, published on Wednesday August 25, lays out the government’s strategy to increase capacity in primary care and a significant part of that is an injection of more investment in the Pharmacy First scheme which supports a range of people living in Scotland including those registered to a GP practice, care home residents, the homeless and gypsy travellers.
The scheme is already receiving £7.5m in funding this year and under the new plan will be bolstered by another £2.5m in 2022-23 to broaden community pharmacies’ support for patients and take pressure off GPs.
The plan will also see the introduction of a pharmacy women’s health and wellbeing service, in which pharmacists will provide advice and treatments in areas including conception, contraception and menopause.
“Community pharmacies, acting as the first port of call, will be a key provider in unscheduled care, supporting the recovery of the NHS,” the government said.
In its second year the plan will introduce a community pharmacy hospital discharge and medicines reconciliation service which the government hopes will allow patients being discharged from hospital to get quicker access to support.
The government will also invest £155m to ensure general practices receive more support from other healthcare professionals including pharmacists, funding that is underpinned by an implementation plan with health boards, integration authorities and the British Medical Association that was signed off in July.
The plan will see the recruitment of more pharmacists to help with patients' repeat prescriptions and medicine reviews as well as other healthcare professionals performing a range of tasks.
The Government said it hoped to deliver pharmacy support in all of Scotland's 925 general practices by April 2022.
There will also be a move towards a paperless prescribing system and innovations such as ePrescribing and eDispensing to give patients faster and safer access to their medicines.
The Government said it was “a priority” to ensure patients have access to face-to-face consultations within general practice and other sectors.
However, although ministers want healthcare professionals to start seeing patients in the flesh on a regular basis, they do not want to see digital and virtual services that were delivered throughout the pandemic ditched entirely but rather form a mix of services moving forward.