Pharmacy tests for sore throats

Author: talkhealth

Date: NOV 2016

A new initiative, called The Sore Throat Test and Treat service, has been launched with pharmacies aiming to limit the number of patient visits to GPs for sore throats. This new walk-in service has been introduced with the aim of reducing doctor appointments and reducing the over-use of antibiotics, as NHS England has said.1

Each year, around 1.2 million people will visit the GP with a sore throat and recent studies show that 62% of these visits result in the prescribing of antibiotics. Tests have shown that less than 10% of people who present with a sore throat actually have a bacterial infection and therefore do not need antibiotics.2 This new scheme could save the NHS millions of pounds a year, and could do much to stop the threat of increased antibiotic resistance.

The Sore Throat Test and Treat service has already been trialled in 35 Boots pharmacies, and is set to be rolled out across the country over the course of the year, as stated by NHS chief executive Simon Stevens. The test itself can determine if an illness is caused by a virus or a bacterial infection. Antibiotics will only help if the patient is suffering with a bacterial infection, meaning many will avoid being given antibiotics unnecessarily.

The results can be gathered within minutes from a throat swab, which measures sugars on the tongue. Patients who do require antibiotics can be prescribed them there and then by the pharmacist, avoiding the GP surgery altogether.

This is certainly an innovative and necessary move that could modernise the NHS, making treatment more personal and a lot quicker. However, cuts to pharmacy funding could harm the scheme and its plans to spread. Claire Ward, Chairwoman of Pharmacy Voice has welcomed the service, but warns that the cuts could indeed prevent the scheme from reaching its full potential.

Despite this, the Sore Throat Test and Treat service is a welcomed scheme that could do much to limit the number of GP visits and unnecessary antibiotics prescriptions.

If you would like to find out more about antibiotic resistance, please read our dedicated article.

1. Sore throat sufferers urged to take pharmacy test, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-37961366, accessed 16th November 2016.

2.Sore Throat Test and Treat, https://www.england.nhs.uk/ourwork/innovation/nia/case-studies/malcolm-harrison/, accessed 16th November 2016.

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Next review: 17 November 2019