Catholic MP Maria Caulfield has welcomed the move to a Pharmacy First model for those in need of medical advice rather than going direct to a GP or A&E.
More than 100,000 patients have been referred to pharmacists through the scheme intended to ease the pressure on surgeries and hospitals.
“The role of pharmacists is an important part of the NHS Long Term Plan, and I am encouraging local residents to make better use of their clinical expertise closer to home,” said Ms Caulfield, Conservative MP for Lewes and a former NHS nurse.
“Pharmacists are highly skilled health professionals who have expert knowledge on how to use medicines to support patients. Residents can access advice quicker than seeing their GP while leaving appointments or A&E spaces for those more in need.
“If in any doubt about where to seek medical help, NHS 111 can direct people to the appropriate resources, and in emergencies residents should always call 999 or go to A&E,” Ms Caulfield added.
Some 114,275 patients with minor illnesses or urgent medication needs were seen under the NHS Community Pharmacist Consultation Service (CPCS), the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said. They were given same-day referrals to their local pharmacist for assessment and treatment after calling NHS 111.
Call handlers dealt with 64,067 requests for urgent medication, for conditions including diabetes and asthma, during the first 10 weeks of the service launching.
And advice was given to 50,208 people with minor illnesses such as sore throats and earaches.
The scheme, which began in October and has been called “a fantastic success”, aims to reduce the number of GP and A&E visits by treating people in the community.
The latest NHS performance figures show a record number of attendances at A&E departments, ambulance callouts and NHS 111 requests for help in December.
Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, said: “I want to see pharmacists do more to help people stay healthy and prevent pressure on hospitals. This Pharmacy First approach makes life easier for patients and will help reduce pressure in the NHS.
“I want to see more patients with minor illnesses assessed close to home, saving them unnecessary trips to A&E or the GP, and helping people get the care and advice they need quicker.
“Thousands of patients receiving same-day advice from highly-skilled pharmacists is exactly what we need. Community pharmacy is an integral and trusted part of the NHS and we want every patient with a minor illness to think ‘pharmacy first’.”
The service has seen 10,610 pharmacies sign up, and is funded through £2.5 billion per year.