People can often struggle to get appointments with their GP for a multitude of reasons. Therefore, it is important therefore to utilise the skills and knowledge of local pharmacists. They can play a significant role in helping you with minor conditions.
Community pharmacies offer a wide range of healthcare services, and the role of pharmacists is constantly expanding. As of March 2019, there were over 11,500 community pharmacies in England, compared to 6,822 GP practices in January 2020. Considering the accessibility and number of community pharmacies, there is a clear opportunity for the public to make better use of their services.
Consequently, this blog post aims to guide people on how to effectively utilize local community pharmacies.
Medical Advice and Over-the-Counter (OTC) Medications
In community pharmacies, there is a range of medications available for purchase over-the-counter (OTC). These drugs do not require a prescription. From eye drops to painkillers to heartburn and indigestion medication, you can quickly obtain medication to treat less severe acute conditions.
Your local pharmacist and pharmacy technicians are trained to offer advice and help select the best OTC medication for treating your condition/symptoms. In addition, pharmacists can also guide you on when it is necessary to consult a GP. Instead of immediately visiting a GP when you feel unwell, seeking advice and obtaining an over-the-counter treatment from your pharmacist can save you a significant amount of time.
Furthermore, if you have any concerns about a medication you are taking or need advice on how to take medication, your pharmacist is the best person to assist you. Pharmacists are experts in medicine and can answer any questions you may have. You can request to speak to the pharmacist at your local community pharmacy or call the pharmacy to seek their advice.
It is really important that people take their medications correctly and understand what they are doing and why. Yet, it is estimated that around 50% of people do not adhere to their prescribed medication regimen. This often occurs due to patients’ lack of understanding about their medication and their anxieties surrounding it. Pharmacists can help clarify any confusion and alleviate your concerns so that you can follow your treatment correctly and reduce any feelings of anxiety.
During the 2021/22 rollout of the seasonal flu vaccine, more than 26 million eligible patients received the flu vaccine in GP surgeries. Whereas only 4.7 million patients received their vaccine in a community pharmacy. In 2021, community pharmacies administered over 22 million COVID-19 vaccinations out of a total of 52 million vaccinations administered that year. That is a significant number of vaccines.
Many community pharmacies also offer COVID-19 vaccines, flu vaccines and travel vaccines. They have the capacity to organise and administer the vaccinations quickly and efficiently.
For more information, click here to find a pharmacy that offers the NHS Flu vaccine.
Consultations and Independent Prescribing Clinics
Historically, only doctors could prescribe medications, but this is now changing. Many senior nurses and pharmacists have completed additional training to become qualified to prescribe some medications. From 2025 all graduating pharmacists will have the ability to prescribe as independent prescribers.
With an increasing number of pharmacists becoming prescribers, the primary healthcare sector will experience relief as patients will have access to diagnoses and prescriptions from a wider range of healthcare professionals.
Take note of whether any of your local pharmacies already offer consultations with pharmacist-independent prescribers, as this could potentially save you from a long wait for a GP appointment.
As patients, it is crucial to understand and explore all the available options, and considering the accessibility of community pharmacies, they represent one of the best choices for frontline healthcare treatment.