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Pharmacy First: What You Need to Know about the new NHS England Scheme

Pharmacy First- well basically it is what it says on the tin! The NHS England scheme is to encourage people to visit their pharmacists rather than their GP's for less serious illnesses and in turn will help to relieve the pressures on general practices. 

Thorrun Govind, Pharmacist & Heath Lawyer and what you need to know about HNS Scheme Pharmacy First
Thorrun Govind, Pharmacist & Heath Lawyer

What is the Pharmacy First Scheme?

Pharmacy First is a new service in England which means that you can receive advice and NHS funded medicines for common, less serious illnesses from a pharmacist, without having to make an appointment with your GP to obtain a prescription or visit a hospital. Over 10,000 pharmacies in England have registered for the scheme which is due to start at the end of January 2024 and is aimed at reducing the pressure on general practices

This, alongside expansions to the pharmacy blood pressure checking and contraception services, will save up to 10 million general practice team appointments a year and help patients access quicker and more convenient care, including the supply of appropriate medicines for minor illnesses.

Conditions included:

The seven conditions included in the Pharmacy First scheme are:

Clinical pathway

Age range

Acute Otitis Media

1 to 17 years


1 year and over

Infected insect bites

1 year and over


18 years and over


12 years and over

Sore throat

5 years and over

Uncomplicated urinary tract infections

Women 16-64 years


What are the Benefits of Pharmacy First?

• You do not need an appointment. Though please note that you may have to wait a short period to speak to the pharmacist. 

• Anything you say to the pharmacist is treated with confidence. There is a private consultation room available. 

• Pharmacies are open during normal business hours, Saturdays and Sundays and many open late.

• Pharmacists are highly qualified healthcare professionals who are experts in medicines. 

• It may be quicker to see your pharmacist than wait for a GP appointment.

How does Pharmacy First Work?

If you are feeling unwell and may have any of the conditions listed above you can access Pharmacy First at your local pharmacy and if they are not registered they will advise you of one nearby.

Your local participating pharmacist will explain the service to you and ask you for some details including your name, date of birth, postcode, and GP practice.

Will I have to pay for my advice or medicine?

If you don’t normally pay for NHS prescriptions, any medicines supplied to you under the Pharmacy First Scheme will be free. And if you do usually pay for your prescriptions, the cost of the medicine will be the same as a prescription charge. 

Will I always get medication?

On some occasions, you may not need medication and will receive professional healthcare advice.

If the pharmacist feels it is appropriate to signpost you elsewhere, they will highlight the most suitable service to you.

Medicines will ONLY be supplied when you have a current condition in need of treatment. Any medication supplied to you must only be used to treat yourself or a dependent.

Important information about the Pharmacy First Scheme

If accessing the Pharmacy First scheme, you must tell your pharmacist if:

• You think you might be pregnant

• Other medications you are taking

• You are pregnant and/or breastfeeding

• Any allergies that you have

Pharmacists are highly qualified health care professionals who are experts in medicines. The future of pharmacy is independent prescribing, which will enable pharmacists to see and treat a wider group of patients. In the near future pharmacists will leave university being able to prescribe.

The initiation of these services also reflects the NHS’s confidence in community in terms of quality of service and professionalism achieved, which patients and local communities expect to receive- we know that local communities trust and rely on their pharmacy teams. 

This article was created with the assistance of Thorrun Govind, TV Health Expert, Pharmacist and Healthcare Lawyer, Former Chair and Board Member of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society

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