GP pharmacy referral risky to patients, owner says

time:2023-06-01 09:52:49 source:CBS News

Referring patients with complex medical needs to pharmacies is placing them and chemists under too much pressure, a man who owns 11 pharmacies has claimed.

Since 2020, pharmacies have been paid a £14 fee per patient referred by to them by GPs to try and ease pressure on England's NHS during record demand.

But pharmacy owner Max Punni said the fee was inadequate and was placing some patients and staff at risk.

The NHS said the scheme was helping to reduce strain on GPs and hospitals.

A spokesperson for NHS England South West added: "Should the patient have a more complex problem, the pharmacist can refer them to the most appropriate service."

But speaking to BBC Points West, Mr Punni disagreed.

"We've had people coming in with eye infections, Strep A, I had a patient come in who had been sectioned, who came in and self-harmed and was bleeding in the pharmacy," he said.

"We've seen a large increase in the number of people being referred - sometimes inappropriately - to the pharmacy.

"We are effectively the front line [of the NHS] - especially after hours.

"People are turning up to us wanting to remove stitches, people with complex mental health problems [have come in] breaking down.

"We had a death in one of my branches in Christmas week.

"To say it's stress and pressure - that's just part of the job and it's always been that way - this is beyond breaking point."

Mr Punni said the £14 referral fee was insufficient, given inflation.

"We're looking at sort of a real-terms payment cut that we work out to be about 16% over the last three years [with] no allowances made for inflationary pressures," he added.

"The cost of everything has gone through the roof."

Despite his warning, Dr Tim Norbury, a GP from Taunton Vale Healthcare, said the system was making a huge difference by allowing doctors to see the cases that most needed their expertise.

"All healthcare services are very stretched at the moment," he added.

"There is no doubt primary care has got huge demand and we fully appreciate that community pharmacies are under huge demand as well.

"But the key thing is there is no competition between services here.

"So colleagues working closely together through pharmacy schemes and primary care schemes means that we can get the best help for the patients most quickly."

Speaking to the Pharmaceutical Journal in October, Gareth Jones, director of corporate affairs at the National Pharmacy Association, said the scheme would lead to a "more convenient medicines service for long-term conditions, acute care and the prevention of ill health" while also freeing up GP capacity.

Despite concerns by some pharmacists, chemist and pharmacies will increasingly become the gatekeepers of the NHS.

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