The NHS is urging parents to use their local pharmacy first for advice if their child has a minor illness.
The move could help free up GP resources for sicker patients and help save the NHS around £850 million each year as well as save time for busy families.
NHS research shows just 6% of mums and dads with children under the age of five would consider seeking help about a minor health concern from a high street pharmacist before visiting a GP. More than a third (35%) would opt for an appointment with their GP while 5% of those questioned would choose emergency care as their first point of call.
This is despite an overwhelming majority of adults (79%) saying they are aware that pharmacists are qualified healthcare professionals who can give advice on most common illnesses which includes when and where to seek advice for more serious conditions.
Around 95% 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.
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.
Dr Bruce Warner, Deputy Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for England said: “Pharmacists are highly trained NHS health professionals who are able to offer clinical advice and effective treatments for a wide range of minor health concerns right there and then. They can assess symptoms and recommend the best course of treatment or simply provide reassurance, for instance when a minor illness will get better on its own with a few days’ rest. However, if symptoms suggest it’s something more serious, they have the right clinical training to ensure people get the help they need. We want to help the public get the most effective use of these skilled clinicians who are available every day of the week.”
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. It is backed by pharmacists and Netmums, the UK’s biggest parenting website.
For more information about the NHS 'Stay Well Pharmacy' campaign and to search where you can find your local pharmacy services visit the NHS website.