Hearty reasons to love your local pharmacy and ‘Stay Well’

A new campaign, launched today (Monday 12 February) is encouraging people to visit their local pharmacy first for advice on a wide range of minor health problems.

The NHS England ‘Stay Well Pharmacy’ campaign highlights the benefits of seeing a local pharmacy team early for concerns such as sore throats, coughs, colds, tummy troubles, teething, and aches and pains.

Parents and carers of children under the age of five are particularly encouraged to use their local pharmacy as it offers families a quick way of getting expert clinical help.

Community pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are qualified healthcare professionals who are the right people to see if you need clinical advice or over the counter medicines to help safely manage minor illnesses.

Most community pharmacies (over 90%) now offer a private consultation room, suitable for a confidential conversation, if required, and around 95% of people live within a 20-minute walk of a local community pharmacy.

Mike Maguire, pharmacist and owner of the Marton Pharmacy, Middlesbrough, said:

“We can offer fast and convenient clinical advice and with no appointment needed, we are a great first port of call if you have a minor illness.

“Most people live within easy reach of a pharmacy and with many pharmacies offering extended opening hours in the evenings and at weekends, we are an excellent community health resource.”

Pharmacists train for five years in the use of medicines before they qualify and register with the professional regulator, and some also have an additional prescribing qualification.

They can assess symptoms and recommend the best course of treatment or simply provide reassurance, for instance when an illness will get better on its own with a few days’ rest.

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.

Professor Chris Gray, NHS England’s medical director for Cumbria and the North East, said:

“There are lots of reasons to love your local pharmacy service this Valentine’s Week and to use it throughout the year. Every pharmacist is trained in managing minor illnesses and providing health and wellbeing advice, so they are the right person to see for minor health concerns. Using a pharmacy as the first point of call for advice will help free up GP time for more urgent appointments and reduce non-emergency A&E visits.”

Pharmacy technicians are also registered health professionals, subject to the same fitness to practice framework as pharmacists, who are increasingly taking on more clinical activities. This may include assisting patients with the most beneficial inhaler technique, or helping patients understand the correct dose and frequency of a new medicine. They help the NHS treat more people safely, conveniently and well.

Chris Dodd, a Community Pharmacist in Newcastle, said:

“When a loved one falls ill, it can be very worrying. However, instead of going to your GP or A&E in the first instance, we hope this campaign will remind people that community pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are qualified healthcare professionals and the right people to see if you need clinical advice, reassurance, over the counter medicines and even a private consultation room, should it be requested, to help safely manage a range of minor health concerns.”

If you do care for children, the child health app is free to download and offers a wealth of advice and support.

Search nhs.uk/staywellpharmacy for more information and to help you find your nearest NHS pharmacy and opening hours.

Seven reasons to love your local pharmacy service: they can:

  • Advise on minor health concerns such as colds, tummy troubles and pains
  • Support patients with long-term conditions
  • Explain how to take new medicines
  • Review medicines use to ensure safety
  • Provide healthy living services, e.g. advice on quitting smoking, losing weight, reducing alcohol consumption, sexual health or increasing physical activity
  • Offer consultations/ NHS health checks and a wide range of NHS services
  • Provide flu vaccinations.

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