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Parents urged to take ill children to pharmacist first

Just 6% of parents with children under five would consider seeking help for minor illness from a pharmacist

Ingrid Torjesen

Monday, 12 February 2018

NHS England has launched a campaign which urges parents to take young children with minor illness to their pharmacist first instead of to their GP or A&E.

The Stay Well Pharmacy campaign, which will be supported by a TV advert, and digital and social media advertising, highlights how using the pharmacy first will help free up GP time for sicker patients, free up time for busy families and help save the NHS around £850 million each year.

A survey carried out as part of the campaign revealed that the proportion of adults who would get advice from the pharmacist for minor health concerns is only 16%. This went down to just 6% for parents of young children. More than a third (35%) would opt for an appointment with their GP while 5% of those questioned would choose emergency care as their first point of call.

This is despite an overwhelming majority of adults (79%) 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.

A quarter of people (26%) said they thought it was difficult to discuss health concerns in private with a pharmacist, with many not being aware that more than nine out of 10 pharmacies have a private consultation room. Nearly a quarter (24%) feel they would need to visit the GP anyway, so go direct to the doctor in the first instance.

However, NHS England found that among adults who have received advice from a pharmacist in the past six months for themselves or their child, two thirds (66%) found it useful and less than a fifth (19%) needed to go to the GP afterwards.

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. Around 18 million GP appointments and 2.1 million visits to A&E are for self-treatable conditions - such as coughs and stomach 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.

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.”

Sandra Gidley chair of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society England 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 stomach troubles. Pharmacists are healthcare experts and are the right people to see if you need clinical advice for a minor health concern.”

Image courtesy of NHS England- Stay Well Pharmacy campaign, 2018.

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