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a stay well campaign posterFebruary 12 2018

A new campaign is urging parents to consult a pharmacist first if their child has a minor illness, instead of visiting the GP or A&E.

NHS England’s ‘Stay Well Pharmacy’ campaign was launched today (February 12), and highlights new research which has found that only 6% of parents of children under the age of 5 would visit the pharmacy for a minor health concern. More than a third (35%) would opt for an appointment with their GP while 5% of those questioned would choose emergency care as their first point of call.

“This is despite an overwhelming majority of adults (79%) saying they are aware that pharmacists are qualified healthcare professionals who can give advice on most common illnesses which includes when and where to seek advice for more serious conditions,” said NHS England. It estimates that around 18 million GP appointments and 2.1 million visits to A&E are for self-treatable conditions, costing the NHS more than £850 million each year.

The survey found:

  • only 16% adults questioned would get advice from the pharmacist for minor health concerns, and only 6% of parents of young children would do so;
  • 77% of people agree they trust advice from their pharmacist;
  • 26% feel it is difficult to discuss health concerns in private with a pharmacist, with many not being aware that more than nine out of 10 pharmacies have a private consultation room;
  • 24% feel they would need to visit the GP anyway, so go direct to the doctor in the first instance.

However, NHS England found that “among adults who have received advice from a pharmacist in the past six months for themselves or their child, two thirds (66%) found it useful and less a fifth (19%) needed to go to the GP afterwards.”

Three key symptoms will be the focus of the campaign. These are:

  • sore throats
  • coughs and colds
  • tummy problems

Promotional activity includes a new social media activity and a national television advert, as well as “a new short humorous video featuring children in ‘real life adult situations’ encouraging people to use the pharmacy.”

Launching the campaign, Dr Bruce Warner, 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.”

THE RCGP has advised: “Consider the pharmacist, but worried parents should trust their instinct.”

Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard, RCGP Chair, said: “GPs and our teams across the country are currently facing intense resource and workforce pressures, and patients can certainly help to ease this pressure by seeking advice from a pharmacist where appropriate, before making an appointment to see their GP.

“This new advice from NHS England is in line with the College’s own ‘3 before GP’ guidance to encouraging patients to ask themselves whether they do actually need the expert medical care of a GP, or whether self-care, consulting a reputable online source such as NHS Choices, or asking a pharmacist for advice would be appropriate.”

Prof Stokes Lampard acknowledged that pharmacists are “highly-skilled medical professionals who play an important role in advising patients on a huge variety of minor illnesses and conditions, and recommending over-the-counter treatments and basic self-care guidance.”

She added: “Crucially, they are also trained to look out for symptoms that could potentially indicate serious conditions, and advise when GP or emergency care is necessary. But of course, they are not GPs and in an emergency or situation where genuinely unsure, patients should always seek expert medical assistance, particularly if parents see potentially serious symptoms in their child such as a very high temperature that doesn’t respond to simple measures, features of dehydration or lethargy.

“We also understand that all parents worry when their child falls ill, and that ultimately, they are best placed to identify when something really isn’t right with their child. So, if parents notice anything of significant concern in child’s health or behaviour they should of course seek the advice of a GP or ringing NHS 111.”

NHS England points out that the average cost of GP appointments is £31, and the average attendance at A&E costs £148. “Every £1 million saved could fund 270 more hip replacements and 1040 more cataract operations.”

Links:
PHE Stay Well Pharmacy resources (requires registration)         
RCGP comment           

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