People in Devon are being urged to think “Pharmacy First” to fix their winter health problems.
Many people are unaware of the wide range of services available from their local pharmacist and they spend time waiting unnecessarily for a GP appointment or even in busy hospital Accident and Emergency departments, which are often under extreme pressure at this time of year.
Local pharmacies can provide expert advice and a fast route to medication for minor ailments like aches and pains, sore throat, coughs, colds, flu-like symptoms, runny noses, earache and skin rashes.
Tom Kallis, a pharmacist and project lead for Devon Local Pharmaceutical Committee, said: “Winter pressures on the NHS are well recognised and we all have a responsibility to help ensure that emergency services are used appropriately.
“Often there is no need to wait to see a doctor so it is always worth checking with your pharmacy first.”
Pharmacies are open until late and at weekends with no need for an appointment, so they should always be considered as first port of call for common ailments. Most pharmacies also have a confidential consulting area for privacy.
In addition, Devon’s Pharmacy First scheme means that trained pharmacists in participating branches can issue medication which normally has to be prescribed by a GP for the following conditions:
- Urinary Tract Infections (UTI) for women aged 18-64
- Nappy rash
- Conjunctivitis for one-year-olds
The scheme aims to make the most of pharmacists’ expertise and give local people a fast alternative to visiting the doctor, especially during the busy winter period.
The service is generally for uncomplicated cases and the pharmacist will go through a series of questions with the patient in private. If the pharmacist finds ‘red flag’ symptoms they will refer the patient to their GP to get it checked out.
Only specially trained pharmacists offer the Pharmacy First service – if you want to check it’s available at your local community pharmacist, phone ahead and ask about Pharmacy First services.
People are advised to keep a well stocked medicines cabinet at this time of year and to get a flu jab.
“Anyone eligible for a free flu vaccination can get it from their GP or pharmacy and anyone who has the vaccination isn’t just helping themselves – they are protecting those around them,” said Tom.
Pharmacists can also access basic information about a patient’s health and medication if the patient gives them permission to view their Summary Health Record.
If the patient gives their consent, the majority of pharmacists can view online their repeat medication or acute medication issued in the last 12 months – which is especially helpful if a patient runs out of medication.
To find your nearest pharmacy and check opening times, go online at www.nhs.uk or call the free helpline NHS 111.