Got the sniffles? See your pharmacist

With the Ask Your Pharmacist Week event already under way (November 7-14), the National Pharmacy Association has responded to a report by the Local Government Association by claiming millions of GP consultations relating to common ailments could be dealt with by self care and support from local pharmacies.

Community pharmacy is a convenient setting to get help for coughs and sneezes and all manner of other health concerns that don’t necessarily require a GP or hospital appointment, the National Pharmacy Association says.

In the report, entitled Helping People Look After Themselves, the Local Government Association suggests millions of GP visits are unnecessary. It comes as figures show 5.2 million GP consultations each year are for blocked noses, 40,000 are for dandruff and 20,000 for travel sickness.

A further 3.7 million visits are made to A&E every year for self-treatable conditions including sprains, flu, colic and insect bites.

Think before you dial

“We need a new culture of care, where people stop and think before calling the doctor,” says Councillor Izzi Seccombe, chairman of the LGA’s Community Wellbeing Board.

“GPs and A&E departments are already overstretched. However many appointments are unnecessary and for minor conditions that a person could treat or manage themselves.”

Professor Ian Banks, Self Care Forum Trustee, is a former A&E doctor. “Most people are entirely capable of looking after themselves most of the time, self treating when it’s safe and knowing where and when to seek help when they need it,” he says.

“Self care is not no care. Far from it, for example you will find the local pharmacist an excellent source of health advice and information. There are also reputable health information websites such as the Self Care Forum website.”

The Self Care Forum website offers a useful collection of fact sheets for common ailments that contain useful facts, what you can expect to happen, what you can do to help yourself, when you should seek medical help and where to find out more information. There are currently 14 factsheets you can download on ailments including coughs, the common cold, sore throat, sinusitis, fever in children and back pain.

In its factsheet on colds, for instance, it recommends taking over-the-counter medicines such as paracetamol or ibuprofen and talking to your pharmacist about supplements that may help ease your symptoms. Find all the downloadable fact sheets on the Self Care Forum website.

Your local Careway pharmacist has everything you need to soothe a cold, and can give you lots of advice about avoiding winter bugs – so you won’t need to see your GP. To find a Careway pharmacy in your area, use our Pharmacy Finder.