Health leaders in Southend say more GP appointments would be available for patients in the borough with a genuine need if local pharmacists were used more often for minor ailments. NHS Southend Clinical Commissioning Group and the Essex Local Pharmaceutical Committee both say a better use of pharmacists would reduce pressure on GPs.
Fizz Haji, of the Belfairs Pharmacy, said; “Patients with minor conditions such as a cough or a cold, a rash or a minor injury should visit their pharmacist for advice before booking to see their GP. You can visit any pharmacist without an appointment, you just walk in.
“We can offer advice on a range of minor conditions, and many medications that used to be prescription-only are now available over the counter. This includes anti-inflammatories, antihistamines, antacids and minor steroid cream for rashes.
“We train for more than five years and there is also a continuous professional development programme we have to participate in order to continue practising. We will refer a patient back to their GP if it is something we are unable to help with.”
Mr Haji said many pharmacists have continued to develop their customer service and now offer customers a private consulting room and a chaperone service.
Dr Jose Garcia Lobera, local GP and Chair of NHS Southend Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “Pharmacists are an important part of Southend’s local health system, offering advice and medication for minor conditions. Nationally, minor health problems lead to around 57 million GP consultations a year. Patients could save themselves and their GPs time if they went to their pharmacy instead. A better use of pharmacists across Southend would doubtlessly ease pressure on the borough’s GP appointments.”