Patients urged to make more use of pharmacists for non-urgent care

Patients urged to make more use of pharmacists for non-urgent care

Britons have been urged to see their community pharmacist if they suspect they have a self-treatable condition, rather than using up a GP's time and resources.

Healthcare industry trade organisation PAGB carried out a survey of 2,000 adults for Self Care Week and found one in ten has exaggerated their symptoms in order to get a same-day check-up with a GP that they probably don't need.

Some 32 per cent admitted they had been to the doctor with minor illnesses such as sore throats, while 15 per cent revealed they had visited the GP at least once with norovirus in the past year, despite official advice being to stay away to reduce infection.

Despite this, 74 per cent of respondents reported being concerned that NHS services will not be available when they need them because appointments are being taken up with conditions that could be managed at home.

PAGB chief executive John Smith said work needs to be done to change people's behaviour so that the local pharmacy becomes the first port of call for minor illnesses.

"With peak cold and flu season now upon us, it is crucial people have a better understanding of when they should visit their GP or A&E, and when advice and treatment from a local pharmacist would be more appropriate," he added.

When asked what would influence their decision to go to a pharmacist rather than seeing a doctor, 28 per cent of respondents said a better understanding of the pharmacist's qualifications would make them feel more confident in trusting their advice. Almost half said they would be more likely to see a pharmacist first if they had been aware how much time and money it could save them.

Mr Smith stressed that pharmacists can provide expert self-care advice and will also be able to identify when patients require an additional assessment by a doctor.

The news comes after Public Health England issued advice on how to avoid norovirus and what patients should do if they become unwell with it.

If the 'winter vomiting bug' strikes, the release said people should stay away from not only hospitals and care homes, but also GP surgeries. It stressed that although the bug is unpleasant, it is typically short-lived and people can get over-the-counter medicines from their pharmacist to deal with the symptoms, unless they are particularly severe.