Pharamcies helping to take pressure off the NHS

Pharmacies are once again in the spotlight and offering to do more as the seemingly never-ending NHS crisis and pressure on GP surgeries continues to increase.

More and more people are reporting sick and putting an ever-increasing strain on hospital A&Es and GPs.

Waiting times can be torturous and phoning up your local surgery to book a doctor’s appointment is both time consuming and, in many cases, fruitless as appointments are taken so quickly. This requires repeated calls until you are lucky enough to drop on an appointment.

But is the need to see your doctor or visit A&E necessary? The answer is a lot of ailments can be diagnosed, treated more quickly and just as effectively by going to see your local pharmacist.

Martin Lunt, owner of Lunts Pharmacies, said despite many efforts locally and nationally to explain to the public they don’t need to visit a doctor for everything, many people still don’t realise pharmacists are able to help and advise on a range of health issues.

“We are seeing mounting pressure on the NHS from cuts to funding and an increase in the number of people using A&Es. Pressure is alo mounting on GPs and the number of patients requiring or demanding to see their doctor is at crisis point,” he said.

“Many of these people could take their problem to their local pharmacist and don’t need to see a doctor.

“We are not advocating those who have a serious, or potentially serious, problem should not be seen by a doctor, but the majority of ailments are not life-threatening and we are asking those patients to think carefully about the issue they have and if it’s not serious then visit your pharmacist.

“If the pharmacist considers the problem is serious and something they can’t deal with they will refer the patient to their doctor or A&E.

“By taking these simple steps in the first instance, the patient can be both reassured and advised on the best possible way to proceed and, in many cases, the appropriate medication can be obtained there and then.

“The patient would be dealt with quicker and the pressure would be lifted from hospitals and GPs.”

A recent report by the Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH) found that less than one in five of pharmacy team respondents, 18.5 per cent, felt the pharmacy is being used to its full potential.

Another area where the pharmacy is stepping in to lighten the load is helping people trying to give up smoking.

Smoking is the most significant cause of preventable illness in this county by a long way, with figures showing 500,000 hospital admissions of adults aged over 35 each year. And It is estimated smoking related diseases cost the NHS £1.5bn a year.

Advice and treatments on stopping smoking are readily available from the pharmacist and are also among the most cost-effective.