Parents urged to think pharmacist first for minor illness

The NHS is urging more parents to use their pharmacy first in a move which could help free up GP time for sicker patients and help save the NHS around £850 million each year as well as save time for busy families. The call for people to use their local pharmacist first for advice is part of the Stay Well Pharmacy campaign launched by the NHS today. It is backed by pharmacists and Netmums, the UK’s biggest parenting website.

Around 95% of people live within a 20 minute walk of a local 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 £850 million 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.” 

Royal Pharmaceutical Society England Board Chair Sandra Gidley said: “It is great to see a campaign putting pharmacists at the front of people’s minds when it comes to getting clinical advice and over the counter medicines for minor health concerns such as coughs, colds or tummy troubles. Pharmacists are healthcare experts and are the right people to see if you need clinical advice for a minor health concern.”