Welsh pharmacies will prescribe medicines, including antibiotics, to free up GPs

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Wales has launched a new service which means pharmacies can prescribe medicines, including antibiotics, without involving a GP.

Medicines that pharmacies can prescribe include routine contraception and treatments for minor ailments, including antibiotics for ear and throat infections. They can also refill repeat prescriptions in an emergency.

The Welsh Government said the shake-up would give patients ‘accessible and convenient’ NHS services ‘closer to home’ which in turn will ‘free up GP and other NHS services for patients with more complex needs.

From this month, more than 90 pharmacies have started offering the service, with the Welsh Government hoping a third of more than 700 community pharmacies will have joined them by the end of the financial year.

The changes are part of a new agreement between community pharmacy representatives and the Welsh Government, which will also allow trained pharmacists to treat a wide range of conditions that currently require people to see their GP.

The deal will see investment in the prescription service increase over the longer term, with funding rising from £1.2m a year to £20.2m a year by April 2024. The government also intends to increase funding for clinical pharmacy services by £11.4 million. at £20 million.

Welsh Health Minister Eluned Morgan said the reforms ‘represent the most fundamental change in the way pharmacies work since the NHS was established over 70 years ago’.

She said: “Our new prescription for community pharmacy defines a collaborative, innovative and progressive approach to the delivery of pharmaceutical care. Pharmacists are medication experts and undergo extensive training to help people manage a range of common illnesses.

Pharmacists from all parts of the UK have been able to take further training and practice as prescribers since 2003, although traditionally prescribing pharmacists have worked mainly in hospitals and GP surgeries.

In England, the Additional Roles Reimbursement Scheme (ARRS) had seen Primary Care Networks (PCNs) hire 16,000 people by the end of 2021, including clinical pharmacists.

Additional reporting by Isabel Shaw

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