Millions of parents could get more convenient and timely expert advice if their child has a minor illness by opting to go to their local pharmacist first instead of the GP.
The NHS is urging more parents to use their pharmacy first in a move which could help free up GP time for sicker patients and help save the NHS around £850 million each year as well as save time for busy families.
Around 95 per cent of people live within a 20 minute walk of a local community pharmacy, making pharmacists extremely accessible and a valuable first port of call for minor health concerns such as coughs, colds, tummy troubles or teething.
Paul Twomey, Medical Director for NHS England in Yorkshire and the Humber, said: “Pharmacists are available to provide health advice and are conveniently located and easy to access within your local community.
“Pharmacists are able to provide advice in managing minor illnesses and providing health and wellbeing advice, so they are a helpful person to see for minor health concerns.
“Using a pharmacy as the first point of call for such advice will provide you with helpful and timely support.”
Around 18 million GP appointments and 2.1 million visits to A&E are for self-treatable conditions - such as coughs and tummy troubles - at a cost of more than £850 million each year to the NHS. This is the equivalent of more than 220,000 hip replacements or 880,000 cataract operations.
The NHS nationally is working with community pharmacies to increase the range of patient services they provide including asthma audits and flu vaccinations and to promote the clinical expertise available from the pharmacy team.
The call for people, in particular the five million parents of children under five, to use their local pharmacist first for advice is part of the Stay Well Pharmacy campaign launched by the NHS today.
It is backed by pharmacists and Netmums, the UK’s biggest parenting website.
Some parents feel it is difficult to discuss health concerns in private with a pharmacist, with many not being aware that more than nine out of 10 pharmacies have a private consultation room.
Annie O’Leary, Editor in Chief at Netmums, said: “We’re committed to raising awareness of the best way parents can keep their little ones well, and that’s why we're supporting the Stay Well Pharmacy campaign from NHS England.
"Pharmacists are highly trained NHS health professionals who are able to offer clinical advice for a wide range of minor health concerns, right there and then.
"Pharmacists can assess your child's symptoms and provide clinical advice, or simply provide reassurance that it is nothing more serious."