With hospital A&E departments, GPs and urgent care centres under pressure, patients with minor ailments in West Leicestershire are being urged to make their local pharmacy their first port of call.
The new Pharmacy First service has been launched by West Leicestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which plans and pays for many of the area’s NHS services
Many winter ailments – coughs, colds, sore throats, dry skin – along with other complaints such as constipation and diarrhoea, joint or muscle pain, allergies, rashes, conjunctivitis, cuts and grazes can be treated under the new scheme without the need for a GP appointment.
Pharmacy First is available to patients who currently receive free prescriptions and are registered with a GP in the area. Under the service, eligible patients will receive a consultation with the pharmacist about their minor ailment. If pharmacists feel an over-the-counter medicine is appropriate to treat the problem they will be able to supply a product listed under the scheme free of charge.
Professor Mayur Lakhani, practicing GP and chair of West Leicestershire CCG, said: “I urge all eligible people to try this service wherever possible, it’s an excellent scheme. Pharmacists should be the go-to people for minor illnesses. We need to increase people’s awareness of the clinical skills of pharmacists and the services they offer. The NHS Pharmacy First service not only increases patients’ choices, but it also allows GPs to focus on our many patients with more complex needs.”
Although the Pharmacy First scheme is only available to those who already qualify for free prescriptions, pharmacists should still be the first option for anyone who has a minor ailment which can be treated by over the counter medicines, such as sore throats, coughs and colds. Apart from expert advice on a wide range of health issues and supplying medicines to treat common complaints, patients can also access support for self-care via their pharmacy. Consultations are conducted in a private space, not at the pharmacy counter.
Kishan Kotecha, pharmacist and manager of Earl Shilton Pharmacy, said: “Many people don’t realise the wide range of additional services available - we pharmacists do so much more than dispense prescriptions. We see patients without an appointment - that’s always been one of our main advantages - and you will get advice from qualified pharmacy staff.
“Pharmacists are highly qualified healthcare professionals who have undertaken five years of education and training for this specialist role. And if we think you need to see somebody else – if it’s something we can’t deal with – we will refer you on.”
Eligible patients can register for the Pharmacy First minor ailments service with any pharmacy taking part. You can register at any time – you don’t have to make an appointment. Also remember that even if you don’t qualify to use the free Pharmacy First service you can still go to any pharmacy to receive expert professional advice or buy over the counter medicines to treat your minor illness or complaint.
When you register, your pharmacist may ask you for some information, including your name, date of birth and postcode, and possibly proof that you are exempt from paying prescription charges. If you regularly use a pharmacy they may already have this information recorded but try to remember to take proof of exemption with you.
Your pharmacist will complete a computerised form and will ask for your consent to share information about your minor ailment and any medication supplied with your GP. You need to give your consent to be eligible to use the service.