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10th April 2024

Digital Pharmacy System Helps Free up Nearly 26,000 GP Appointments Across Wales in One Month

Nearly 26,000 GP appointments were freed up in February alone thanks to a digital system that’s available to all pharmacies across Wales.

The Common Ailments Service supports community pharmacies to provide services for patients across Wales and aims to free up GP appointments for people with more complex needs.

Under the scheme, free treatment and advice can be offered for 27 common conditions including sore throats, colic and chickenpox.

It is part of the wider Choose Pharmacy service – a digital application developed by Digital Health and Care Wales (DHCW) that is enabling pharmacists to access patients’ summary medical records and share details of pharmacy consultations with the patients’ GPs digitally.

Data from DHCW reveals that 25,834 GP appointments, 12 A&E visits and 264 GP out-of-hours appointments were freed up across Wales in February 2024 by patients accessing the Common Ailments Service instead.

The Common Ailments Service launched in 2013 as a platform to enable community pharmacists to record consultations, share information and provide treatment for various common ailments.

The success of the scheme saw it evolve from its original purpose of hosting the Common Ailments Service to enabling digital medicines review, seasonal flu vaccinations, emergency medicines supply and provision of emergency and bridging contraception.

As part of that, most pharmacies across Wales also now offer a Sore Throat Test and Treat service, providing a clinical assessment for patients and suitable treatment if necessary – free of charge.

Choose Pharmacy has been in continued development over the last 10 years and DHCW is working with users to understand how the platform can further meet the needs of patients and community pharmacy teams.

Dan Hallett, a prescriber at an independent pharmacy in Cardiff and part-time clinical lead with DHCW said:

“The Common Ailments Service is now the cornerstone of the pharmacy contract. Through the platform I can access a huge amount of information that helps my clinical decision making, including a summary of the patient’s GP records.

“I can receive an electronic discharge advice letter which enables my technician or myself to provide the discharge medicines review which contains the details of the patient’s medication on discharge from hospital – so we can ensure there are no ongoing problems or issues with their medication.

“Pharmacists can provide treatment and advice for a wide range of symptoms under the Common Ailments Service – often without needing an appointment.”