Think pharmacy – take the pressure off the NHS

By Dr Niruban Ratnarajah

3/9/21

You may have seen in the news that our health services are facing increasing demand.

The pressure has not eased since the height of the Coronavirus pandemic, and every part of the NHS is under strain.

This is particularly worrying as we head into winter, a time when traditionally more people fall ill.

Be assured that the NHS is still here for you when you need it - but we need your help to make sure that you are using the best service for your needs.

One of the ways you can do this is by using the great services offered by your local pharmacy.

Pharmacies have been crucial in the NHS response to Covid: ensuring people continue to receive essential medicines, taking part in the vaccination programme and relieving the pressure on other parts of the NHS.

Pharmacists are highly-trained professionals who can give expert advice on a wide range of minor illnesses and the medicines used to treat them. They can also help you decide if you need to see another NHS service such as your GP.

They are conveniently situated; with more than 70 community pharmacies in Bolton, there’s one within a short walking distance for most people.

Many are open late and you don’t need an appointment to speak to a pharmacist. They also have a consultation room, so you can talk in private.

According to a survey carried out earlier this year, community pharmacies in England carry out more than 1.1 million consultations a week – that’s a staggering 58 million a year. This saves an estimated 500,000 GP appointments and 70,000 visits to A&E or NHS walk-in clinics every week.

That’s why I’m pleased that some surgeries in Bolton are taking part in a national programme to alleviate the pressure on GPs.

The programme allows GPs and the NHS 111 phoneline to refer patients to a convenient pharmacy for advice and treatment for a range of minor illnesses, or for an urgent supply of previously prescribed medicine. If needed, the pharmacist can also refer you to another service.

Coronavirus has brought great challenges and exacerbated the pressure faced by the NHS. Let’s all do whatever we can to take the pressure off.  

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