We’ve all felt unwell and been unsure about where to seek help. I’m sure many of us have also waited until an illness has really dragged us down before booking an appointment to see someone. But the message this winter is not to wait until you feel worse - ask your pharmacist first.
As a GP I work closely with pharmacists on a day to day basis. Pharmacists are highly trained health professionals and can not only assist with managing common complaints such as coughs, colds, rashes and minor aches and pains, but they can also provide advice to people who are on medications for long term conditions such as blood pressure and asthma. They can assist with information on side effects of medications and interactions between medications as well.
Many pharmacies are open until late and at weekends and you don't need an appointment – you can just walk in which is a real bonus at this time of year when the GP Practices are very busy.
You don’t always need to get a prescription from a GP for the medicine you need, many can be easily bought over the counter at a pharmacy. Pharmacists can assess your symptoms, advise you on how to care for yourself and help you buy the medicine you need. Most local pharmacies have consultation rooms for private conversations too. But they do a lot more than that. As well as helping with common illnesses – like sore throats, coughs, colds, tummy troubles and aches and pains – pharmacy teams can also help with advice on safe sex and emergency contraception, and stopping smoking or cutting down on alcohol if you are thinking about investing in a new healthier you for 2019.
Pharmacists are highly skilled, training for six to eight years before they can practice and, as well as handing out medicines, they always check the dosages and combinations that us GPs have recommended for you. They can give medication reviews too for those on repeat prescriptions.
We all know the NHS is under pressure at the start of a new year, but you can help us help you if you start to feel unwell with a winter illness. Even if it’s just a cough or cold, speak to your pharmacist before it gets more serious.
Dr Minesh Patel
CCG Clinical Chair and local GP