Pharmacies are playing an increasingly important role in improving public health, and I want people to know just how much their local pharmacy can do to help them stay well, treat minor conditions, and live longer, healthier lives.
Nine out of ten people in the UK live within a 20 minute walk of a local community pharmacy, meaning they are a widespread and accessible source of help and advice. Their true value is being recognised as more people pop down to their local pharmacy for health checks and flu jabs that would have previously meant a visit to the GP.
Stockport is leading by example when it comes to showing how community pharmacies can educate the public and offer expert advice on treatments which people normally go straight to their GP about. At Peak Pharmacy in Heald Green, a working group set up as a result of a “100 day challenge” to transform patients’ experience recently changed the whole process for people considering a hip or knee replacement. More tailored support was given to potential patients, including being able to hear from people who had been through the operation, and the people taking part felt the benefit.
The NHS has been promoting a national campaign encouraging people to use community pharmacies as their first port of call for minor illnesses such as sore throats, teething, and coughs and colds, instead of heading straight to a GP. In addition, the Minor Ailments Scheme relieves pressure by enabling pharmacies to dispense medication for minor conditions, and people entitled to free prescriptions can get them directly from the pharmacy.
A number of pharmacies in the Stockport also provide free consultations to help people with asthma or Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease use their inhalers correctly, and also provide free blood pressure checks to help diagnose high blood pressure or atrial fibrillation (a heart condition).
However this isn’t just about relieving pressure on GPs. Good community pharmacies work with hospitals and care homes to support patients, help people stay well, and relieve pressure from other NHS services, all while building trust and working together.
Community pharmacies are vital to ensuring that the whole NHS runs smoothly and that people stay healthy and well. I hope to see more people visiting their local pharmacy as a first port of call and making use of this important service.
Peter Marks, Pharmacist at Peak Pharmacy, said: “It was a privilege to welcome Mary to Peak Pharmacy and to show her the vast range of care that community pharmacies like ours provide, including advice and treatment for minor ailments, medication reviews, sexual health, and much more. We are at the heart of the local community and provide vital services and support for people with long-term illnesses.”
Adam Irvine, Chief Executive of Greater Manchester Local Pharmaceutical Committee (GMLPC), the statutory organisation that represents local pharmacies, said: “Community pharmacies are the most accessible form of healthcare, offering personalised medicines support, information and advice, and a range of services to help people stay well. Pharmacists are highly-qualified experts who complete five years of training before we can practise, so we are your first port of call for minor illnesses and general health advice.”