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NHS urges parents to use pharmacies for children’s illnesses

This article was taken from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/feb/12/nhs-urges-parents-to-use-pharmacies-for-childrens-illnesses

By Guardian Press Association

Stay Well Pharmacy campaign aims to relieve pressure on GPs and A&E for minor complaints

A health campaign is urging parents to treat their pharmacist as their first port of call for their children’s minor illnesses instead of visiting their GP or A&E.

NHS England said there were 18m GP appointments and 2.1m visits to A&E for self-treatable conditions every year, at a cost of £850m to the health service.

Millions of parents could get more convenient and timely expert advice by taking their concerns to their local pharmacist first, which would also ease pressure on GPs and emergency services, the campaign will say.

NHS England said research showed that only 6% of parents 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.

Thirty-five per cent would opt for an appointment with their GP and 5% would choose A&E as their first port of call.

This despite 79% of adults saying they were aware that pharmacists were qualified healthcare professionals who could give advice on most common illnesses.

NHS England says about 95% of people live within walking distance of a community pharmacy, meaning they are an accessible and valuable first port of call for minor health concerns such as coughs, colds and teething troubles.

The NHS is working with pharmacies to increase the range of patient services they provide, including asthma audits and flu vaccinations.

Figures released from a pilot study last week showed that more than 1,200 patients who called NHS 111 over the winter had been seen by pharmacists instead of GPs or being sent to A&E.

The six-month trial in the north-east of the country allows NHS 111 operators to refer appropriate non-emergency patients to community pharmacies during late-night, weekend and out-of-hours periods.

The call to get parents to use their pharmacists is part of the Stay Well Pharmacy campaign, which features TV, digital and social media advertising and is supported by the parenting website Netmums.

Dr Bruce Warner, the 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.

“However, 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.”

Netmums’ editor-in-chief, Annie O’Leary, 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 can assess your child’s symptoms and provide clinical advice, or simply provide reassurance that it is nothing more serious.”