In a bid to promote the use of pharmacies, NHS England has launched a new Stay Well Pharmacy campaign, which is encouraging people with non-emergency healthcare problems to visit their local pharmacist. It is hoped that the scheme will help to alleviate financial and temporal strain on other NHS services.
NHS England has launched the campaign in response to a survey, which found that just 6% of parents would consider taking children to pharmacies rather than visiting a GP or A&E.
However, taking children to pharmacies is important, especially for younger children aged five and under, as it will help to dramatically reduce NHS spending. Currently, it is estimated that around 18 million GP appointments and 2.1 million visits to A&E per year are for self-treatable conditions. This costs the NHS the equivalent of over 220,000 hip replacement operations.
Taking children to pharmacies isn’t just beneficial to NHS services either. The average wait time for a GP appointment is currently five days. During this time, patients of any age could receive advice and/or treatment more quickly by consulting their local pharmacist first.
Healthcare services available at pharmacies
Research shows that just one in three people would consider going to their pharmacist for healthcare advice. The survey also highlighted that 91% of participants believe that dispensing medicine is the main role of a pharmacist; however, the additional services provided by many pharmacies includes:
- diabetes screening
- blood pressure monitoring and checks
- stop-smoking advice
- emergency contraception
- public health information
- advice on minor illnesses, common conditions and healthy lifestyle choices
- medication reviews
- dispensing prescriptions, both privately and through the NHS
- prescription collection and delivery services
Many, but not all pharmacies, also offer advice and health checks for obese patients, as well as an NHS Health Check. This is a service offered to patients aged 40-70 which assesses the risk of stroke, kidney and heart disease and dementia.
The benefits of taking children to pharmacies
Pharmacists are also GP out of hours’ service providers, meaning that they can offer healthcare guidance outside of normal GP practice hours.
In this manner, taking children to pharmacies may be the most practical option for parents, especially for minor illnesses, during evenings and weekends. Taking children to pharmacies is also a good way of preventing more serious conditions from advancing; if symptoms are detected early on, then more serious and invasive treatments could be stopped in their tracks.
However, parents should not be discouraged from making an appointment with their local GP or visiting an A&E department if their child is displaying serious symptoms. The out of hours’ services available should be the first port of call for minor illnesses and non-emergency cases.
The importance of visiting pharmacies
It’s important to remember that pharmacists are trained and skilful medical professionals; while they are not GPs, they can refer patients and help to reassure them, diagnose conditions and prescribe suitable treatments.
It is hoped that the NHS’s Stay Well Pharmacy campaign will encourage patients with minor illnesses to consult a pharmacist first, therefore alleviating some of the pressure on doctors, nurses and GPs.
Encouraging more patients to use pharmacies as their first port of call will help raise awareness of the breadth of services offered by local pharmacies, encourage patient self-care, and free up more GP appointments.
For more information on NHS pharmacies in your area, you can use the NHS Choices Pharmacy Finder; more information on your local out of hours’ service provider is also available on the EBPCOOH website.