Hundreds of patients who called NHS 111 over winter have been seen by pharmacists, new figures show.
Since December more than 1,200 patients who called the urgent care phone line with less serious illnesses or injuries were sent to see pharmacists instead of seeing GPs or being sent to A&E.
NHS England said such a move will help relieve some pressures in urgent and emergency care and GPs.
It said community pharmacy is an “underused resource” and collaboration with the service can help “deliver great care conveniently”.
The figures come from a pilot scheme in the north east of the country.
The six month trial allows NHS 111 operators to refer appropriate non-emergency patients to community pharmacies.
Since the project started on December 4 last year, 1,249 patients have been referred to local pharmacies during late night, weekend and out-of-hours periods, said NHS England.
During the trial, the pharmacy receives electronic notification that a patient has been referred and will follow up with the patient if they do not attend the pharmacy within 12 hours.
Figures show around 60% of callers referred successfully attended pharmacies – and of those 39% received advice and the supply of an over the counter medicine.
Almost a quarter (22%) received advice only.
Meanwhile 18% were escalated for in hours GP appointments with 11% escalated to attend an out-of-hours appointment or a walk-in centres.
Over 300 local pharmacies across Durham, Darlington, Tees, Northumberland and Tyne and Wear are taking part in the project.
Dr Jonathan Slade, deputy medical director of NHS England Cumbria and the North East, said: “The future direction and success for the NHS is dependent on much closer working between different providers of health and social care, and this includes tapping into underused resources like community pharmacy.
“The pressures that the NHS is under generally, and particularly in winter, need to be addressed in innovative ways, and the CPRS is an excellent example of how this closer collaboration can continue to deliver great care conveniently, and help relieve some of the pressures in key areas such as Urgent and Emergency Care.”