More than 1.2 million consultations a week – or 65 million a year – are now being carried out by community pharmacy teams in England, according to PSNC’s 2022 Pharmacy Advice Audit.
This is an increase from 2021, when the audit results suggested that in total pharmacies were providing 58 million consultations per year.
PSNC has today published the findings of the audit of over 4,000 community pharmacies carried out earlier this year. During the audit, 82,872 informal patient consultations were recorded, with the average pharmacy completing 19 consultations per day.
This suggests that more than 1.2 million informal consultations are taking place in community pharmacies in England every week.
The audit helped to quantify the number of informal referrals being made to pharmacies by GPs and NHS 111, with 7,774 informal patient referrals into pharmacy coming from these routes; grossed up to a national level that means 117,000 cases per week. These are all referrals that could and should have been made by the NHS Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS).
The audit also indicated that pharmacies are continuing to save thousands of GP appointments every week, and that many patients are still struggling to access other healthcare settings.
Finally, the audit enabled PSNC to assess, for the first time, the level of severity of the conditions with which patients are presenting in community pharmacies: it is clear that pharmacies are regularly seeing patients in very urgent need of help.
The 2022 Pharmacy Advice Audit was the third audit that pharmacies have taken part in and PSNC has already used the data in funding discussions with Government and the NHS. Many thanks to all pharmacy teams who took part this year and to LPCs for supporting engagement with the audit.
Summary of the Audit Results
The audit results highlight that every week pharmacies help over 865,000 patients who are presenting at the pharmacy for clinical advice about symptoms and over 251,000 patients who have questions about an existing medical condition.
Pharmacy teams were able to provide expert advice to an impressive 83% of those who sought it, without any need for these patients to be referred elsewhere. The average staff time per consultation was 5.6 minutes, meaning pharmacies spend on average 107 minutes a day providing healthcare advice to patients. This is a 19% increase on the amount of time pharmacies were recorded as having spent offering such advice in PSNC’s 2021 Audit.
Out of the 17% of consultations appropriately referred to another healthcare professional, 23% were deemed to require urgent assessment.
Almost half of the people presenting at their pharmacy for advice said that if they could not have gone to the pharmacy, they would have attended a GP practice; this would have led to the need for an extra 619,000 GP appointments a week which equates to an additional 95 weekly appointments for each GP practice in England.
Extrapolating the results of the audit, PSNC has found that:
Community pharmacies save roughly 32.2 million GP appointments per year;
Nearly a quarter of a million consultations are carried out in community pharmacy every week because patients are unable to access their preferred part of the healthcare system; and
Over half a million consultations a week, or eight consultations a day, occur in each community pharmacy for clinical advice alone, where no sale of a medicine is made; and
The audit results also show that the number of face-to-face consultations being carried out in community pharmacies has increased since 2021.
PSNC Chief Executive Janet Morrison said:
“As a newcomer to the community pharmacy sector I was aware that the public and patients could go into pharmacies for healthcare advice, but I did not realise the extent to which this is happening. These audit results show just how heavily the nation has come to rely on community pharmacies, as well as how severe the impact could be for the rest of the NHS if this were to be put at risk
“It is clear that pharmacies are increasingly becoming the first port of call for healthcare advice, and that both patients and other healthcare professionals are turning to them more and more. Pharmacies are proving themselves time and again to be the most accessible healthcare locations, helping patients with a wide range of increasingly complex conditions and needs. It is astonishing that this work is all being done without specific funding, and worrying to see GP and NHS 111 referrals coming through outside of the CPCS, and we’ll continue to try to address this through our negotiations.
“A huge thank you is owed to all the community pharmacy teams who took part in this advice audit; I know that doing so will have added yet more pressure to your busy days, but the results tell a very powerful story that we have already put to effective use in our discussions with the Government and NHS. It will continue to be important for us to gather this sort of data to track trends over time, and to provide critical evidence on an ongoing basis for use in negotiations.”
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