The RPS has welcomed findings by the Older People’s Commissioner for Wales which highlights the need for increased use of the skills of pharmacists and other health professionals to ensure speedier and convenient access for patients to primary care services.
The report, GP Services in Wales: The Perspective of Older People, captures the views of older people from across Wales on issues of access to GP services and patient experience. It highlights a number of concerns including the challenge of securing an appointment with a GP service, the time restrictions of GP appointments, and continuity of care when accessing a GP service.
The report draws attention to the services that are being put in place across Wales to increase access to primary care via a pharmacist. They include the Choose Pharmacy/Common Ailment Service which provides immediate access to a pharmacist for treating common ailments and the development of new approaches to care where pharmacists are working in GP practices as part of the primary care team. The concept of Cluster Hubs, as developed by Cwm Taf Health Board, are also highlighted by the report as new models of care which can bring together GPs, pharmacists and other health professionals to meet the needs of local communities in new and innovative ways.
Respondents to the Commissioner’s survey indicated they were aware they could access other health professionals such as pharmacists in their own community as alternatives to GP services. Only 37% of those surveyed however reported using those services.
Commenting on the report, Mair Davies, Director of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in Wales, said:
“The Older People’s Commissioner’s report provides a useful insight into the experiences of older people and further strengthens the calls for innovation and change in the delivery of primary care services in Wales. We know that our GP colleagues are facing significant pressures in addressing the growing demand for primary care services and we have long advocated that pharmacists have the skills and knowledge to improve patient access to NHS services.
It is encouraging that services are being developed in Wales which give patients of all ages the opportunity for quick access to NHS services via a pharmacist. It is concerning however that only a small proportion of those surveyed by the Older People’s Commissioner look to other health professionals as an alternative to making a GP appointment. Greater awareness about when to seek support from a GP or to access a pharmacist or another health professional is vital if pressures on GP services are to be reduced.
When seeing a pharmacist, it is also important that patients can be confident that their patient notes and relevant information are available. This is not routinely the case and we have campaigned for a long time for community pharmacists to have access to appropriate patient records. We are pleased therefore that the Commissioner has issued guidance to LHBs within this report calling for patient information to be shared with primary care health professionals to improve patient experience and continuity of care”.