Pharmacist first for minor illnesses

A NEW health campaign in England is urging patients to first contact local pharmacists for clinical advice and treatment for minor health concerns.

The Stay Well Pharmacy campaign was launched by NHS England and aims to increase public trust in community pharmacy teams and encourage people to use pharmacies rather than visit GPs as the first port of call for minor illnesses. The campaign focuses on three key symptoms: sore throats, coughs/colds and tummy problems.

All pharmacies, GP and dental surgeries will receive a campaign toolkit including posters, information cards and briefing sheets along with other resources. National pharmacy organisations have also worked to compile a one-stop resources hub to support pharmacy teams, with clinical resources to help in the management of minor illnesses and identify red flag symptoms. Pharmacy teams are being encouraged to use the hub and share it with colleagues.

A survey conducted as part of the campaign found that only 16 per cent of adults get regular advice from pharmacists for minor health concerns and only 6 per cent of parents concerned about young children. This is despite 79 per cent of adults being aware that pharmacists are qualified to give advice on most common illnesses and are able to identify more serious symptoms needing further medical care by a GP or emergency department.

The survey further revealed that 66 per cent of adults receiving advice from a pharmacist in the past six found it useful and only 19 per cent needed to attend a GP.

The campaign will use TV advertising, social media, posters and leaflets and a partnership with Netmums and lasts till 31st March.

Sandra Gidley, chief of the English Pharmacy Board, 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."

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, Chair of the Royal College of GPs, commented: "GPs and our teams across the country are currently facing intense resource and workforce pressures, and patients can certainly help to ease this pressure by seeking advice from a pharmacist where appropriate, before making an appointment to see their GP.

"Pharmacists are highly-skilled medical professionals who play an important role in advising patients on a huge variety of minor illnesses and conditions, and recommending over-the-counter treatments and basic self-care guidance. Crucially, they are also trained to look out for symptoms that could potentially indicate serious conditions, and advise when GP or emergency care is necessary.

"But of course, they are not GPs and in an emergency or situation where genuinely unsure, patients should always seek expert medical assistance, particularly if parents see potentially serious symptoms in their child such as a very high temperature that doesn’t respond to simple measures, features of dehydration or lethargy.”

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