Pharmacy leaders urge action to relieve NHS winter pressures
Date published: 11 January 2018
Ask your pharmacist for advice before seeing your GP
Pharmacy leaders in Greater Manchester are supporting NHS campaigns encouraging people to ‘Think Pharmacy before GP’ to relieve winter pressures on GPs and hospitals.
They say that taking six simple steps involving a pharmacy can help people stay well and treat themselves this winter without the need to see a GP. Their advice mirrors that of NHS, Public Health England and Royal College of GPs, which have all been urging people to visit a pharmacy if they become unwell, instead of going straight to a GP.
Greater Manchester pharmacies are advising people that getting a flu vaccination, stocking up on a few basic medicines, seeking advice from a pharmacy at the first signs of winter illness will help people stay well this winter without the need to see a GP. They are also encouraging people to wash their hands regularly, stay warm and well-nourished, and use NHS Choices for advice including details of pharmacies open near them.
Aneet Kapoor, Chairman of Greater Manchester Local Pharmaceutical Committee and a practising local pharmacist, said: “It is not too late to get a flu vaccination and it is still the best way of protecting yourself and those around you from getting flu this winter. Many people can get it free and it is available, often without an appointment, in more than 500 Greater Manchester pharmacies.
“Pharmacies can also provide advice and treatment for a wide range of illnesses including flu, coughs and colds, and other winter nasties. Pharmacy staff are highly-trained and specialise in medication and treatment products. We’re always more than happy to help and you do not need an appointment.
“We can also identify when a condition is more serious and someone really does need to see a doctor or go to hospital, so it is best to visit us first. We are encouraging people to ‘Think Pharmacy before GP’.”
Six simple steps to stay well and treat yourself this winter:
- Get a flu vaccination. It is not too late to get vaccinated. More than 500 Greater Manchester pharmacies provide free NHS flu vaccinations to eligible groups including over-65s, pregnant and breastfeeding women, carers and care-workers, those with long-term conditions (e.g. asthma, heart disease, diabetes), and people with BMI 40+.
- Keep your hands clean and ‘Catch it, Bin it, Kill it’. Regular handwashing with soap and warm water reduces the spread of winter bugs. If you have a cough or cold, use tissues, put them in the bin, and wash your hands – Catch it, Bin it, Kill it. Pharmacies are happy to advise on this.
- Stock up on basic medicines. Keeping a few essentials in stock means you can treat yourself at the first signs of illness. Paracetamol and ibuprofen help relieve flu symptoms including fever and aches and pains. Over-the-counter remedies can help with blocked or runny noses, sore throats and coughs; some of these products also include paracetamol. Your pharmacy can advise on what to stock up on.
- Keep warm, well-nourished and hydrated. Drinking plenty of fluids and eating a balanced diet with vitamins and minerals helps boost your immune system. Many pharmacies can advise you on healthy eating and supplements if you need them.
Visit your pharmacy at the first signs of illness. Pharmacies are there to help and you don’t need an appointment. Just pop in and staff will be more than happy to advise on treatment – they will also recognise when conditions are more serious and you do need to see a doctor.
Use NHS Choices (www.nhs.uk). The national NHS Choices website can help you find pharmacies open near you. It also has a useful symptom checker and information on almost every health condition you can think of.
NHS flu vaccination are available free for:
- Anyone who will be 65 or older up to 31 March 2018
- Anyone aged 18-64 in the following categories:
- Long-term health condition (e.g. heart disease; lung conditions like asthma and COPD; liver/kidney disease; diabetes; neurological disease like Parkinson’s, dementia or MND; learning disability)
- Reduced immunity due to disease (e.g. HIV) or treatment (e.g. chemotherapy)
- BMI of 40 or more
- Care-home worker/domiciliary care worker
- Carer of someone with a long-term condition or close household contact of someone with reduced immunity
Children aged two/three: Young children are also at risk of becoming very ill with flu. Your GP can provide a nasal flu vaccination for children aged two to three. GPs also provide flu vaccinations to the other eligible groups.