HEALTH AND CARE: Parents urged to think pharmacist first

Pharmacists are a valuable first port of call for minor health concerns
Pharmacists are a valuable first port of call for minor health concerns

Did you know you could get more convenient and timely expert advice if your child has a minor illness by opting to go to their pharmacist first instead of the GP?

By using a pharmacy for minor health concerns we can all help the NHS and ease pressure on GPs and other health services.

However, research for the NHS shows just six per cent of mums and dads with children under the age of five would consider seeking help about a minor health concern from a high street pharmacist in the first instance.

More than a third (35 per cent) would opt for an appointment with their GP while five per cent of those questioned would choose emergency care as their first point of call.

This is despite an overwhelming majority of adults (79 per cent) saying they are aware that pharmacists are qualified healthcare professionals who can give advice on most common illnesses which includes when and where to seek advice for more serious conditions.

The NHS is urging more parents to use their pharmacy first in a move which could help free up GP time for those who really need urgent medical attention, as well as save time for busy families.

Around 95 per cent of people live within a 20-minute walk of a community pharmacy, making pharmacists extremely accessible and a valuable first port of call for minor health concerns such as coughs, colds, tummy troubles or teething.

Around 18 million GP appointments and 2.1 million visits to A&E are for self-treatable conditions - such as coughs and tummy troubles - at a cost of more than £850million each year to the NHS. This is the equivalent of more than 220,000 hip replacements or 880,000 cataract operations.

The NHS nationally is working with community pharmacies to increase the range of patient services they provide including asthma audits and flu vaccinations and to promote the clinical expertise available from the pharmacy team.

Dr Bruce Warner, deputy chief pharmaceutical officer for England, said: “Pharmacists are highly trained NHS health professionals who are able to offer clinical advice and effective treatments for a wide range of minor health concerns right there and then.

“They can assess symptoms and recommend the best course of treatment or simply provide reassurance, for instance when a minor illness will get better on its own with a few days’ rest.

“However, if symptoms suggest it’s something more serious, they have the right clinical training to ensure people get the help they need.

“We want to help the public get the most effective use of these skilled clinicians who are available every day of the week.”

People are being urged to think about using their local pharmacist first for advice is part of the Stay Well Pharmacy campaign.

It is backed by pharmacists and Netmums, the UK’s biggest parenting website.

Annie O’Leary, editor in chief at Netmums, said: “Pharmacists are highly trained NHS health professionals who are able to offer clinical advice for a wide range of minor health concerns, right there and then.

“Pharmacists can assess your child’s symptoms and provide clinical advice, or simply provide reassurance that it is nothing more serious.

“We know convenience is key and parents should consider using the pharmacy team as their first port of call, after all, 95 per cent of the population is within easy reach of a local community pharmacy.”

The NHS Stay Well Pharmacy campaign is being supported by a TV advert, and digital and social media advertising – visit nhs.uk/staywellpharmacy to find out more.

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