UK moves to give pharmacists right to prescribe antibiotics
If you head straight to your doctor when you get a sore throat, you are not alone. Last year, 1.2 million people in the UK did the same.
But that puts extra pressure on surgeries and usually results in patients receiving antibiotics, even when those drugs won't make any difference.
Now the National Health Service (NHS) wants UK patients to visit pharmacies first, where a simple test will show whether antibiotics will work.
More than 60 percent of those with sore throats end up with an antibiotic being prescribed, even though just one in 10 or fewer sore throats are actually caused by a bacterium against which antibiotics work.
That means hundreds of thousands of unnecessary visits to GPs and huge amounts of antibiotics are being unnecessarily prescribed each year.
It should be the perfect remedy, saving patients time, the NHS money and preventing the continuing rise of antibiotic resistance. But there's one potential catch. The UK government has taken a chunk out of pharmacy funding this year and next.
Making better use of pharmacies is seen as common sense, with wide support. But it will only work if fully resourced as a service in its own right, not rushed in to alleviate the symptoms of an NHS under grave financial pressure.