How we should all make better use of pharmacists

Many people already use their pharmacist for health care advice but some patients may not be aware of what advice and support a pharmacist can give so default to what they know – in most cases their GP or A&E department.

Pharmacists are a valuable resource that we sometimes overlook – and it’s not surprising with the vast array of health services available to us.

But for those with long-term conditions local pharmacists can provide expert advice on how to manage them. If you have a bad cough, trouble breathing, a cold or sore throat why not try your pharmacist. Pharmacists are well trained and well placed to support people with questions they have about their health. Many pharmacies have longer opening hours than GP practices, most have a private consultation area and if they think you should see a doctor they’ll say so.  You don’t need an appointment to see a Pharmacist.

Pharmacists and their teams can also help older people with minor illnesses before they get more serious, which could prevent a stay in hospital or a wait at their GP practice.

It’s surprising to realise that 99 per cent of the population can get to the pharmacy within 20 minutes by car and 96 per cent on foot or using public transport.

You may have noticed adverts in the paper or on a billboard for a campaign that NHS England is running to encourage people to seek help early if they’re feeling under the weather.

What we want to do is make sure that people get the right advice, in the right place, first time. Making better use of local pharmacists is an important part of this.

They’re already, in many cases, an important part of the community and can provide a much wider service than dispensing prescriptions.

Over recent years, the traditional role of pharmacists has changed. They now work more closely with healthcare colleagues in hospitals and residential care to help patients manage their own conditions, providing health checks and supporting best use of medicines.

So help us spread the word – if you’re feeling under the weather, see your pharmacist for expert advice, the earlier the better.

View the Urgent and Emergency Review report into winter pressures.

Clare Howard

Clare Howard is Deputy Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for NHS England and is leading the work on Medicines Optimisation for NHS England. Clare first started working in pharmacy at the age of 16 and since then has worked with community pharmacists, primary and secondary care.

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