New scheme to steer patients away from GPs

A NEW Pharmacy First Scheme is in the initial stages of being rolled out across Fermanagh.
The scheme aims to help displace unnecessary GP appointments by inviting patients to seek a consultation with a pharmacist first. The service which came into operation on 1 December caters for those with sore throats, colds or flu-like aliments.
Enniskillen pharmacist Paul Hughes explained how the scheme works. He said patients can organise an interview with their pharmacist and after listening to the description of symptoms “pharmacists can recommend the best course of action”.
As part of the scheme the pharmacist fills in a form, detailing the symptoms presented and advice or medication provided. The form is then signed by the patient and the doctor receives a copy.
“Up to 40 percent of a GP’s time is spent treating patients who could have been treated with a pharmacy visit instead.
“This scheme aims to reduce crowds at GP practices and cut down on prescribing cost. Even if a doctor only prescribes paracetamol there is a prescribing cost.”
However, not all patients are in favour of the scheme which is alredy being rolled out in Lisnaskea.
A Newtownbutler mother, who did not wish to be named, spoke about her experience as she tried to make a doctor’s appointment for her autistic son who was suffering from a bug.
Upon visiting the GP surgery her husband was advised to visit the pharmacy first.
“You have to go to the chemist first and they have to see that there is nothing on their shelves that would be suitable for you, fill out the form and then go back down to the doctor’s to fight to get an appointment.”
The local mother added that she appreciated she had often heard advice to go to a chemist first for the likes of a cough to “save you from queuing in the doctors”, but she said, “when you think the child might need an antibiotic and this is the way we have to go through it to see a doctor, I think it’s disgraceful.
“I feel that disabled children and the elderly are going to be totally banjaxed,” she added.
Mr Hughes, meanwhile, stressed “there is nothing to stop necessary GP appointments”.
He also remarked that the scheme was here to stay and in the next year or two minor aliments like mouth ulcers and acne could be also incorporated in the Pharmacy First Scheme.

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