Conservatives and Labour have pledged new technologies and community programmes to free up GPs for more complicated cases. A leading testing expert says revolutionary blood testing technology will enable community pharmacies to be at the heart of local healthcare.
The new health secretary, Thérèse Coffey, has unveiled her plan for patient care, and it promises a greatly increased role for local pharmacists in diagnosing and treating patients. The Government believes empowering community pharmacies will free up GP time for more complex cases.
Likewise, Labour leader Kier Starmer said in his party conference speech on Tuesday: ‘In health, it’s about moving treatments towards our communities, exploring how technology can free up NHS workers to focus on care.’
‘Community pharmacists will be empowered to diagnose and prescribe medications in certain situations.’ said Mat Rezaei, Pharm.D and founder of online pharmacy – UPGUYS . ‘This step forward seems particularly suited to the many health conditions now detectable by advanced blood testing. Pharmacists and their laboratory partners can easily diagnose a wide range of common and specific conditions, ensuring overloaded doctors can help patients needing more complicated diagnoses and treatments.’
Meanwhile, the leading testing expert, Dr Quinton Fivelman PhD, chief scientific officer at London Medical Laboratory, says: ‘There’s agreement among health professionals and across the political divide that better community support combined with new healthcare technology can take the pressure off our beleaguered GPs.’
‘The Government’s new paper proposes reforms to frontline healthcare that will enable pharmacists to conduct consultations and use new diagnostic tests to identify illnesses and prescribe medications.
‘The Health secretary believes: ‘This move will ‘ease pressures on GP practices by expanding the role of community pharmacies.’ She told MPs last week that allowing pharmacists to prescribe certain medicines without involving a GP will ‘free up two million appointments’.
‘The Government’s new plan for patients states: ‘We will expand the range of services available from community pharmacies. Pharmacists can manage and supply more medicines without a prescription from a GP.’
It explains: ‘We will look to further enable pharmacists with more prescribing powers and make more simple diagnostic tests available in community pharmacy.’
‘Blood tests are likely to be at the heart of such reforms. 60%–70% of all clinical decisions come from laboratory results, and around 95% of clinical pathways rely on patients accessing pathology and blood testing services.’
‘New blood tests can diagnose conditions from diabetes to thyroid problems to specific allergies. Such tests can be performed by qualified pharmacy phlebotomists and are available as off-the-shelf finger-prick blood tests.’
Not only can these tests form the basis of treatment, but they can also prevent problems before they become serious health issues. That’s an issue at the heart of Labour’s new Health Contract, unveiled this year.
Introducing the new policies, Labour leader Kier Starmer said a Labour Government would: ‘Switch focus from simply treating illnesses to preventing them. When I was director of public prosecutions, hardly a case came across my desk where early intervention couldn’t have turned lives around before they unravelled. The same is true in health.’
Labour’s new Contract states: ‘There are technologies that can provide us with early warnings about the diseases we might be vulnerable to. ‘Hospital at home’ technologies allow patients to track and report their conditions with remote supervision. We now have access to the most incredible array of information about ourselves.’
Key to these policies, the Contract states: ‘Labour would make well-being matter as much as national economic output. It is certainly true that well-being and wellness should be at the heart of local health policies. For example, there has been a significant rise in patient awareness regarding self-testing.’
‘Tech-savvy millennials have become the ‘wellness generation’, with many health services available online or via a mobile app. Together with an increasing number of elderly people, they request better testing access.’
‘Today, companies such as London Medical Laboratory (the UK’s largest phlebotomy network and leading omnichannel blood testing, diagnostic and health check business) are constantly introducing new tests to give people a comprehensive picture of their health. We provide phlebotomy training to all our partner pharmacy sites across the UK, which will number over 100 by the end of the year.’
‘Pharmacies will also help the NHS by increasing their range of testing services. For example, the UK has over a million people walking around with undiagnosed diabetes, which can cause serious illness later in life and can even lead to an early death.’
‘Many of us also have unsuspected high cholesterol and high blood pressure. These three preventable issues alone cost the NHS millions a year. If everyone had regular blood tests, it would be better for the country’s health and save the NHS money in the long term.’
‘Our new generation, off-the-shelf, home blood tests are highly accurate, quick and simple to carry out. They take only around five minutes, with results emailed the next day.’