Pharmacy spot-test proposed for sore throat sufferers
Sore throat sufferers will be urged to visit their pharmacist instead of their GP for an on-the-spot test to see if they need antibiotics, it can be revealed.
Officials say the move could save the NHS £34 million a year, should help cut around 800,000 GP consultations if the scheme is taken up nationwide, and could help tackle antibiotic resistance.
The plans for the Sore Throat Test and Treat initiative, in a bid to tackle mounting pressures on family doctors, have been announced by NHS England.
Chief executive Simon Stevens said the scheme will be rolled out across the country over the course of the coming year and is one of eight medical innovations that will be introduced.
"Necessity is the mother of invention, and health care worldwide is now fizzing with smart innovation," said Mr Stevens.
"In the NHS, we're now taking practical action to develop and fast-track these new techniques into mainstream patient care."
Medics have warned that over-prescribing antibiotics is leading to a growing resistance to them - and it is estimated this could cause the deaths of 10 million people by 2050.
Around 1.2 million people visit their GP with sore throat symptoms every year. Six in 10 were prescribed antibiotics when just one in 10 has an infection caused by bacteria, the Daily Telegraph reports.
NHS England said the walk-in community pharmacy service, which will see trained pharmacists undertake the swab test with results provided in five minutes, will reduce that pressure.
Under a six-month pilot of the scheme, 35 patients were treated at Boots pharmacies and tested to see if a course of antibiotics would help.
The initiative forms part of the NHS Innovation Accelerator scheme, designed to help with the adoption of new treatments and technologies.
Each innovation is evidence-based and cost-saving, and focuses on providing solutions to key challenges facing the NHS, including better prevention, improved management and early intervention.
The programme's founder, Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS England's National Medical Director, said: "With rising demand and escalating costs, innovation is not an option but a necessity if we are to build a sustainable NHS.
"The innovations selected for this programme have the potential to deliver better value for the taxpayer whilst making patient interactions with the NHS safer and more personal."
One of the other initiatives being introduced is EpSMon, an epilepsy self-management tool which enables patients to monitor their well-being and know when to seek medical support.
It is hoped the tool will lead to a reduction in the number of epilepsy-related deaths and a decrease in A&E appointments.
Last year, 17 innovations were supported by the NHS and rolled out across more than 380 NHS organisations.
Keith Ridge, chief pharmaceutical officer at NHS England said: " This is a good example of how the NHS wants to make the most of pharmacists clinical skills
"It will help avoid unnecessary use of antibiotics whilst reducing the pressure on busy GPs."