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 accident and emergency.

The figures come from a pilot scheme in the North-East and over 300 local pharmacies across Durham, Darlington, Teesside, Northumberland and Tyne and Wear are taking part in the project.

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”.

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 this an excellent example of how this closer collaboration can deliver great care conveniently, and help relieve some of the pressures in key areas.”