People with minor ailments are being encouraged to ease the burden on their doctor and make the local pharmacy their first port of call.
An estimated 60 million visits to overstretched GPs could be avoided if patients utilised the services of community pharmacies according to the National Pharmacy Association.
The statistics were issued ahead of national Ask Your Pharmacist Week from November 10 – 16.
As well as advice on coughs, colds and flu, pharmacists can carry out NHS Medicine Use Reviews, in which they help patients to take their medications correctly. They are also able to help troubleshoot any problems the medicines may be causing.
In the last year alone, Lincolnshire Co-op pharmacists carried out nearly 9,000 medicine use reviews, helping patients to get the most from their prescriptions.
The society’s pharmacies also provide the NHS New Medicine Service, which provides support to patients starting certain new medicines to ensure they are taken safely and to the best effect.
Lincolnshire Co-op group pharmacist Nick Carney said: “Sometimes it’s hard to get your head around a new prescription – this service ensures that patients are well informed and have the opportunity to ask any questions they may have.”
According to a report by the Proprietary Association of Great Britain, every year more than 5.2 million people visit their GP suffering from a blocked nose – a problem which a simple trip to their local pharmacy could solve without the need for an appointment.
Health problems that can be dealt with by visiting your local pharmacy include:
• Medicine queries, advice and reviews
• Contraception services – emergency contraception, C-card
• Pain relief – inflammation and minor injuries
• Eye complaints
• Skin complaints – mild acne and mild eczema
• Stomach complaints
• Insect bites and stings
• Foot care, including warts and verrucas
• Coughs and colds
• Head lice
• Travel advice
• Stop smoking services
• Flu vaccinations (£9.95)
Lincolnshire Co-op pharmacies also provide a range of free routine health checks including blood pressure, BMI/weight, lung function and diabetes tests. These can be vital in recognising the early signs of serious health problems.
Lincolnshire Co-op’s head of pharmacy Alastair Farquhar said: “Pharmacists are healthcare professionals and are fully trained to deal with far more minor health problems than people think, so your local pharmacy is always a good first stop. “They are also trained to recognise if your condition is more serious, and will be able to direct you to an appropriate service to receive care.
“There’s no need to make an appointment and in many cases your pharmacist may be able to identify your condition and provide you with the correct treatment straight away.”