Patients in South Tyneside could receive quicker appointments under new plans by health bosses.
The ‘GP2Pharmacy’ scheme, which is being tested in the borough until September and gives patients the option to visit a local pharmacy as an alternative to their GP.
Currently, 10 practices in the borough are involved in the scheme - which aims to reduce pressure on GPs by offering same or next day appointments.
An extra 8,000 appointments are expected to be created - with some pharmacies also allowed to dispense medications for the skin condition impetigo and urine infections.
The first point of contact will always remain with the patient’s GP surgery.
Health bosses revealed the pilot at a meeting of South Tyneside Council’s People Select Committee and head of commissioning for primary and community services at South Tyneside CCG, Jo Farey, said the scheme had “strict conditions” to make sure it was “safe and robust.”
She said: “Our pharmacies provide an absolutely brilliant service but they’re a bit underutilised with very highly-qualified professionals who can probably do so much more.
“The scheme is potentially closer to home and more convenient for the patients and we’re building on relationships between professionals and between the patients and the professionals.
“We think it’s really good trialling it in a managed, safe way and it’s a really good joined up approach.”
The pilot scheme is being led by South Tyneside Health Collaboration, a group of local GP practices on behalf of South Tyneside CCG.
It was also funded by the CCG’s Primary Care Transformation Fund, which aims to tackle pressures around primary care.
Coun Ernest Gibson said that many patients don’t know about repeat prescriptions – which allow patients to pick up medication from pharmacies without the need for a appointment.
He added that the pre-paid prescriptions are often cheaper and save patients money and travel.
The meeting also heard training was being rolled out to allow more community pharmacies to be able to dispense prescription-only drugs.
Dr Stephen O’Donnell, a local GP and senior clinician as a director of South Tyneside Health Collaboration, has also stressed the benefits of the scheme.
After the meeting, he said: “If the service is a success, we hope to extend it to all practices in South Tyneside in the longer term.”
There are currently 10 practices involved in the GP2Pharmacy Pilot in South Tyneside, with referrals made through local GPs.
For more information, visit healthcollaboration.co.uk
Sites currently offering appointments.
Colliery Court Medical Group, The Medical Centre, Gibson Court, Boldon Colliery
Central Surgery – Cleadon Park Primary Care Centre and Flagg Court Health Centre
Dr Dowsett and Overs, Palmer Community Hospital, Wear Street, Jarrow
East Wing Surgery, Palmer Community Hospital, Wear Street, Jarrow
Imeary Street Surgery, South Shields
Marsden Road Health Centre, South Shields
Ravensworth Surgery, Horsley Hill Road and Jarrow Medical Centre sites
Talbot Medical Centre, Stanley Street, South Shields
Trinity Medical Centre, New George Street, South Shields
Wawn Street Surgery, South Shields
Chris Binding , Local Democracy Reporting Service