When most people fall sick, their first port of call is usually the doctors. Most especially when their companies have a health insurance or an offer to treat them for free. However, experts are saying rather than competing for an elusive appointment, it’s worth remembering that everyday health complaints can be resolved on your high street.
Sandra Gidley, president of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) says from sunburn and rashes to cystitis, headache and hay fever, your local pharmacy can treat a host of minor medical concerns.
According to the report published in Yahoo: “Pharmacists have been on the frontline throughout this pandemic, giving the public rapid access to care and advice, supporting critical care in hospitals and delivering life-saving vaccinations.
“The under-utilisation of pharmacists’ clinical skills is one of the biggest scandals of modern day healthcare.
“As the National Health Service (NHS) looks to provide more integrated care, pharmacists across health settings will be essential to supporting patient safety and getting the best value from medicines.
“They will also be central to reducing health inequalities, as well as meeting national ambitions on the earlier detection and treatment of high-risk conditions such as cancer and cardiovascular disease”, RPS president quipped.
In corroborating the international Pharmacy body’s argument, Dr Lolu Ojo, managing director, Merit Healthcare Limited Pharmaceutical, has also emphasised that care must be embraced as the philosophy of the community pharmacy practice. He said, there is no future in the mere act of pill dispensing and pharmacists must move away from “behind the counter” and start to serve the public by providing care instead of pills.
He further stated that pharmacists must embrace the new concept of pharmaceutical care and demonstrate the value of professional pharmacy services by improving patient outcomes and medication use in the community.
“Inclusion of disease management in services rendered by community pharmacists could significantly improve the clinical outcomes. Chronic illnesses like hypertension, diabetes and arthritis do not require the patient to visit the clinics regularly. A community pharmacist could take up the responsibility for such patients in consultation with the physician”, he said.
The RPS president said, monitoring of therapeutic progress, consulting with prescribers, and collaborating with other healthcare practitioners on behalf of the patients are of utmost importance. Noting that, HIV/AIDS management is a classical case which the pharmacists must be actively involved in, outside the hospital system.
“Pharmacists are experts in medicines, with every clinic dispensing NHS prescriptions, disposing of out-of-date medication and offering advice on healthy living.
“As qualified healthcare professionals – who train for five years – pharmacists can recommend over-the-counter treatments for aches and pains, sore throats, coughs, colds and flu”, she maintained.
In his own contribution, the National Chairman, Association of Hospital and Administrative Pharmacists of Nigeria (AHAPN) Dr Kingsley Amibor, noted that pharmacists can contribute towards improving medication use and other global health issues at both individual and systems level.
“We want people to see that pharmacists can be a first port of call for minor ailments or medicines advice ahead of a GP visit, rather than simply somewhere they get their medicines after a doctor’s appointment,” Marc Donovan, chief pharmacist at Boots UK also said.
Rather than waiting for a GP appointment, pharmacies are often open weekends and into the evening, to help calm everything from earache to pink-eye, or even a teething baby.
“In addition to their traditional role of dispensing medicines, pharmacists have a wealth of knowledge,” said Donovan.
“Our most commonly asked questions include advice on aches and pains, coughs and colds, skin rashes, hay fever and eczema.”
Some pharmacies go further, offering emergency contraception, stop-smoking services and advice on how to maintain a healthy weight.
Others provide chlamydia screening and treatment services, as well as the facilities to measure a customer’s blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol levels.
“We offer a wide range of pharmacy services to support you when you need it most – everything from our cystitis test and treat service to acne clinics, mole scanning services and our erectile dysfunction clinic,” said Donovan.
As experts in medicines, pharmacists can be particularly useful if a patient misunderstands their prescription, such as their drug dose or how to take it safely.
Many pharmacies also have a private consultation room, if you prefer a little privacy.
“Pharmacists offer a wide range of services to support you to get the best from your medication, including reviewing new medicines you have been prescribed by your GP or helping you to get the right technique to make the most from your inhaler,” Niamh McMillanm, Superdrug’s pharmacy superintendent added.
Taking advantage of pharmacies may be particularly important amid the coronavirus outbreak.
“The pandemic has put greater pressure on the NHS than in normal times, but our pharmacies have remained open throughout to offer healthcare advice and services from our highly trained pharmacists,” said Donovan.
“Community pharmacies are already helping to relieve pressure on stretched NHS services, helping to free up GP appointments and supporting the primary care network – and I believe we can do more still.”