Pharmacists play crucial role in treating minor ailments

March 17, 2010

A leading UK pharmacy has today backed a new campaign which calls for a change in attitude towards the treatment of minor ailments, as too many people visit their GP with minor problems such as coughs and colds.

The Co-operative Pharmacy has said that in the last year it has seen a notable rise in the number of customers using its pharmacies to receive common ailment advice.

It is supporting the report by the ‘Self-Care Campaign’ which has found that minor ailments cost the health service in England alone nearly £2bn, with common ailments accounting for nearly one fifth of GPs’ workload.

The British Medical Association and the Royal College of GPs (RCGP) have called for a move towards more self-care to alleviate the problem, but according to Victoria Steele, Lead Clinical Governance Pharmacist at The Co-operative Pharmacy, pharmacists are also playing an important role in helping to tackle the issue.

Victoria Steele says: “Community pharmacists have a key role to play in providing minor ailment advice. In addition to offering over the counter (OTC) treatments, pharmacists can also spot more serious warning signs. In the last year, we’ve witnessed an increase in the number of customers using our minor ailments service as patients are becoming more interested in managing their own health as they have more access to information, but sometimes they need reassurance.

“A number of Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) run minor aliments services for treatment of conditions such as conjunctivitis, cystitis, sore throats and earache, but what many people don’t realise is that in addition to getting confidential advice from their local pharmacist, they may also be able to receive an OTC remedy free of charge.

“Minor ailment schemes vary from place to place, but if a PCT has commissioned the service, the patient is registered with a doctor within that PCT and entitled to free prescriptions, they are likely to qualify for the free treatment. Therefore, the service also helps to tackle health inequalities as it benefits patients who cannot afford to pay for OTC products.

“By working more closely with GPs and Primary Care Organisations to provide minor ailments advice, pharmacists are helping to free up doctors’ time for more complex cases,” adds Victoria.