Are seven-day GP surgeries really the answer to the NHS problems?

Cormac Tobin, Managing Director, Celesio UK

Prime Minister David Cameron announced that patients will be able to see a family doctor seven days a week. He has pledged that GP surgeries will be open for up to 12 hours a day by 2020 in the hope this will allow people in employment access to GP appointments, relieving pressure on hospitals and out-of-hours clinics.

The pledge has been met with criticism from the British Medical Association who has questioned whether extending GP surgery opening hours is the best use of already stretched NHS resources, and doctors unions have been reported as saying the plans are unrealistic as there simply aren’t enough GPs to cope with opening seven days a week.

This announcement comes days after I spoke to the Mail on Sunday about ways in which community pharmacy can help alleviate pressures on the NHS, including the challenges faced by GP surgeries and A&E departments.

LloydsPharmacy is already running First Care Clinics in some of our stores, treating minor injuries and ailments. The clinics are run by knowledgeable, qualified and passionate LloydsPharmacy colleagues in store, offering consultations on complaints such as skin conditions, coughs and colds, cuts, and indigestion. These clinics provide a platform for patients to discuss their ailments with a trained professional, and if provided in all LloydsPharmacy stores, could alleviate traditional healthcare routes such as GP surgeries or A&E departments. For this to work though we need support from the NHS and patients, who need to change their perception and habits on where they access their healthcare needs.

Our pharmacy teams interact with their local community every day, often through extended opening hours in the evenings and at weekends; they are able to assess lifestyle risk factors and positively impact on their patients’ health and wellbeing. Our professional colleagues at the pharmacies are willing and able to be an alternative solution; providing care within a pharmacy setting. We have already demonstrated what community pharmacy is capable of delivering through our successful services such as Type 2 diabetes screening and blood pressure measurement.

LloydsPharmacy is already creating and designing services to the benefit of patients and to the needs of the health service, partnering with and innovating alongside the NHS.  We aim to help to relieve the healthcare demand that can no longer be channelled entirely through traditional NHS routes.

UK, 30 September 2014