REVEALED: Should you go to the doctor or pharmacist for flu, back pain and eczema?

Millions of parents could get more convenient and timely expert advice if their child has a minor illness by opting to go to their local pharmacist first instead of the GP. 

In new research carried out by the NHS, only six per cent of mums and dads with children under the age of five would consider seeking help about a minor health concern from a high street pharmacist in the first instance. 

While only five per cent of those questioned would choose emergency care as their first point of call, 35 per cent would opt for an appointment with they GP. 

This is despite a massive 79 per cent 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.

As a result the NHS is urging more parents to use their pharmacy first in a move which could help free up GP time for sicker patients and help save the NHS around £850 million each year as well as save time for busy families. 

Around 95 per cent 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 such as coughs, colds, tummy troubles or teething. 

And an estimated 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.

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.”

The call for people, in particular the five million parents of children under five, to use their local pharmacist first for advice is part of the Stay Well Pharmacy campaign launched by the NHS today. It is backed by pharmacists and Netmums, the UK’s biggest parenting website. 

So what can your pharmacist help you with? 

As well as dispensing and repeat dispensing medicines, and the disposal of unwanted or out-of-date medicines, advice on treatment of minor health concerns and healthy living is on offer at pharmacies. 

Help with minor illnesses 

Pharmacy teams can give advice about a range of common conditions and minor injuries, such as pains, sore throat, coughs, colds, flu, earache and cystitis. 

Some also offer a minor ailment scheme for common health problems like aches and pains, skin conditions and stomach upsets. 

NHS Choices says: “If your pharmacy runs a minor ailment scheme, the pharmacist will be able to assess your needs, give you advice, suggest medicines if appropriate and refer you to a GP if necessary.” 

Advice on alcohol consumption, pregnancy testing, stop smoking service and weight management service are among the other services pharmacies offer. 

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