Parents urged to think pharmacist first for unwell children
- A major new public health campaign urges parents to consult a pharmacist first for minor illness, instead of GP or A&E
- 18 million GP appointments and 2.1 million visits to A&E for self-treatable conditions cost the NHS £850 million per year
- Using a pharmacy for minor health concerns eases pressures on GPs
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.
Research for the NHS shows just 6% 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. 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, as well as when and where to seek advice for more serious conditions.
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% 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.
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.
The NHS nationally is working with community pharmacies to increase the range of patient services they provide including asthma audits and flu vaccinations and to promote the clinical expertise available from the pharmacy team.
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. 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.
A survey carried out as part of the campaign reveals that the proportion of adults questioned 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.
While 77% of people agree they trust advice from their pharmacist, there are misconceptions about the level of service this highly trained group of healthcare professionals can offer in terms of advice and expertise.
A quarter of people (26%) feel it is 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 a fifth (19%) needed to go to the GP afterwards.
Annie O’Leary, Editor in Chief at Netmums, said: “We’re committed to raising awareness of the best way parents can keep their little ones well, and that’s why we’re supporting the Stay Well Pharmacy campaign from NHS England. Pharmacists are highly trained NHS health professionals who are able to offer clinical advice for a wide range of minor health concerns, right there and then. Pharmacists can assess your child’s symptoms and provide clinical advice, or simply provide reassurance that it is nothing more serious. We know convenience is key and parents should consider using the pharmacy team as their first port of call, after all, 95% of the population is within easy reach of a local community pharmacy.”
Royal Pharmaceutical Society England Board Chair Sandra Gidley 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 tummy troubles. Pharmacists are healthcare experts and are the right people to see if you need clinical advice for a minor health concern.”
The NHS ‘Stay Well Pharmacy’ campaign will be supported by a TV advert, and digital and social media advertising. For more information search NHS.uk where you can also locate your local pharmacy services.
Rita Ghelani, Pharmacist: “I’ve been a pharmacist for over 20 years and I’m proud to be one. On a daily basis, I’m treating and advising on a whole range of minor health concerns, but sadly not enough people are coming to pharmacy teams when they are feeling under the weather as there seems to be a misconception about the level of service that we can offer. So I’m pleased this Stay Well Pharmacy campaign has launched, hopefully it will encourage people to visit us first next time they have a minor health concern.”
From the PharmaLearning team: Pharmacists have the potential to make real differences in peoples lives. With an interest in pharmacy education and training we want to empower pharmacy students to carry this forward in their careers. We need to work to change public misconception of pharmacists being seen as just medicine dispensers, not often visible in a community pharmacy setting. Being approachable, promoting/conducting services well and keeping up to date on clinical knowledge allows people to build trust and confidence in us. We must continue to demonstrate more proactively that we care! In line with this campaign, our behaviour in the work place should emphasise that we do have the skills to deal with minor ailments, with the ability to accurately refer to other services when needed.