Sore throat 'test and treat' pilot goes live

An on-the-spot sore throat swab service, designed to relieve pressure on GPs and tackle antibiotic resistance, is now available at 48 community pharmacies; 23 in Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board and 25 in Cwm Taf University Health Board.
 
The throat swab test will be provided for patients, if appropriate, following a clinical examination examination by a pharmacist.
 
The initiative is being piloted as part of the Choose Pharmacy service, which encourages patients to visit their community pharmacist instead of their GP for common ailments, such as indigestion, hay fever, conjunctivitis and sore throats. Choose Pharmacy is enabled by a pharmacy IT system designed and developed by NHS Wales Informatics Service for use in NHS Wales.
 
Initially, the sore throat swab service is only available in selected pharmacies in Cwm Taf and Betsi Cadwaladr local health board areas.
 
The sore throat test will determine if an illness is caused by a virus - meaning drugs will not help -  or a bacterial infection. Results from a throat swab test are provided in minutes. If a bacterial infection is present and the patient can be helped by antibiotics, they will be supplied by the pharmacist. The patient will not have to see a GP.
 
Cheryl Way, NHS Wales Informatics Service Lead Clinical Pharmacist, said: “This is a further example of how the Choose Pharmacy digital platform can relieve pressure on GP services and support appropriate  antibiotic prescribing. It provides pharmacists with the information support they need to supply safely and keep a secure record of the patient’s care.”
 
Cheryl Way explained: “Community pharmacists are well placed to help to manage patients with sore throat and to refer for further investigation if there are signs of more complex infection.”
It is estimated there are around 180,000 GP consultations for sore throat in Wales each year. In 2016, 122,000 antibiotic prescriptions for sore throat were dispensed.
 
The sore throat test and treat initiative will be fully evaluated before a decision is made on further roll out.
 
Choose Pharmacy for common ailments is currently available at 96% of pharmacies and is due to be available at all community pharmacies in Wales by March 2020.
 
In April 2018, Choose Pharmacy was recognised at the Clinical Pharmacy Congress as the winner of the award for “Excellence in the Use of Technology in Pharmacy Practice”.