A “hidden army” of pharmacists could help ease the pressure on struggling GP practices.
Research by the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) found there will be 76 million occasions this year when patients will have to wait more than a week for a GP appointment.
And it claims stationing pharmacists in surgeries to deal with day-to-day medicine issues will cut the waiting times.
RCGP chairwoman Maureen Baker said: “Waiting times for a GP appointment are now a national talking point – and a national cause for concern, not least amongst GPs themselves.
“But, even if we were to get an urgent influx of extra funding and more GPs, we could not turn around the situation overnight due to the length of time it takes to train a GP.
“Yet we already have a ‘hidden army’ of highly trained pharmacists who could provide a solution.
“Practice-based pharmacists, working as part of the clinical team, would relieve the pressure on GPs and make a huge difference to patient care.”
The RCGP plans are backed by the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS).
David Branford, chairman of the RPS English board, said: “We must be more strategic and change the services on offer to make best use of the NHS workforce.
“Patients deserve access to high quality care and services wherever they live and pharmacists are central to providing this.”
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, BMA GP committee chairman, said: “Placing more pharmacists into GP practice teams is a move the BMA has been advocating for some time.”