urgent and emergency care

Policy topic

Attendance at A&E and minor injury units has increased by a third over the last decade, yet one in 12 visits could be managed by community pharmacists. Research by Health Education England has suggested up to 36% of Emergency Department attendees could be treated by Independent Prescriber Pharmacists.  

Incorporating pharmacists more fully into the delivery of urgent and emergency care would have a substantial impact on A&E waiting times and improve patient care. 

Smarter use of community pharmacy could also reduce initial demand, for instance by managing common ailments or long-term conditions, administering vaccines, supplying medicines on an emergency basis, or optimising medicines at transfer of care. There are successful examples of all these services around the UK.

We recommend that:

  • NHS England should nationally contract all community pharmacies to provide a common ailments service. With a typical consultation cost of £29 per patient - as opposed to £82 in GP practices or £147 in A&E - such a service could save the NHS £1.1 billion a year if it were commissioned throughout England, as it is in Scotland
  • All A&E departments should incorporate a pharmacist to manage medicine-related issues
  • NHS 111 should ensure, as part of the national standards, that pharmacists are considered as an option to support urgent and emergency care at a local level, particularly around treatment of common ailments and emergency supplies of medicines. 

Improving urgent and emergency care through better use of pharmacists is one of the themes of the RPS’s Shaping Pharmacy for the Future work.

Policy documents

  • Policy (England, September 2014)
Details