Patients urged to use chemists to reduce burden on GPs

Patients across Shropshire suffering minor ailments are urged to make better use of pharmacists to help alleviate pressure on GP surgeries.

Ian Swindell, superintendent pharmacist for Lunts Pharmacies, which has premises in Shrewsbury, Craven Arms and Pontesbury, said whilst the number of people seeking advice on minor medical conditions from their local chemist had risen over the last four months there was scope for this number to increase further.

It comes after a recent investigation by the BBC revealed hundreds of GP surgeries had stopped taking on new patients or had applied to do so because of a lack of qualified doctors.

According to the NHS Choices website, the majority of practices across Shropshire are still accepting new patients but Mr Swindell said it was still necessary to try and reduce the pressure on surgeries.

He said: “The NHS is under huge pressure and this recent investigation highlights the struggle faced by GP surgeries.

“The situation is only going to get worse but patients can help to alleviate some of the problems by making their local chemist their first port of call when suffering from minor ailments.”

In October the NHS launched its Stay Well This winter campaign and as part of that patients were encouraged to visit their pharmacist if they were suffering from common ailments such as coughs and colds.

Mr Swindell said since the launch of the campaign they had seen an increase in patients seeking advice from their pharmacists rather than visiting the doctors but he added: “We are convinced more people could still make better use of their chemist.

“Pharmacists are trained in the correct use of medicine and can therefore advise on a range of illnesses. It’s often not necessary for people to visit their doctors.

“If however, a patient’s symptoms appear more serious pharmacists will signpost people to the right place, either their GP or A&E.”

Mr Swindell said people did not need to make an appointment at their chemist and all pharmacists are happy to talk through a patient’s symptoms and the best way to treat them.

He added that most pharmacies also offered a medicines use review service which can be helpful to patients who take several different medications.

“Pharmacists are happy to talk through and advise patients on all their medications to make sure they are using them properly or answer any questions.”

Lunts Pharmacies has been serving Shropshire communities for more than 40 years.