NHS leaders in South Tyneside are calling on local people to take advantage of free expert advice from their local pharmacy for common or less serious conditions as part of a new scheme.
Think Pharmacy First allows people to get advice and medicines to treat common illnesses, such as coughs, colds, upset stomachs and skin problems simply by going to a community pharmacy.
Dr Kelly Staples, a GP at Ellison View Surgery in Hebburn, said: “Pharmacists are highly trained experts and fully qualified to give health advice on a range of health issues, including colds and flu to migraines and allergies.
“Think Pharmacy First is making it easier for people to get free professional advice without the need for an appointment. Lots of people with minor problems which don’t require a visit to the GP will find it is much more convenient to see a trained pharmacist.”
Patients who don’t normally pay for NHS prescriptions will receive medicines under Think Pharmacy First free of charge. For those who do pay for prescriptions, it is likely that buying medicines from a pharmacy will be less expensive than the prescription charge.
Many pharmacies open in the evenings and weekends, and with no appointment needed, people can save themselves time and simply walk in at a convenient time.
With NHS services across the country under pressure from increasing demand, it’s more important than ever to choose the right service for your needs.Dr Matthew Walmsley, Chair of NHS South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group
The new scheme is linked to a reorganisation of urgent care services in the borough, which will see the existing Jarrow walk-in centre relocate to form part of a new urgent care hub at South Tyneside District Hospital in the autumn.
David Carter, Chair of the Gateshead and South Tyneside Local Pharmaceutical Committee, said: “We are delighted to support Think Pharmacy First to help ensure that patients get the maximum benefit from their local community pharmacist.
“We’ve been working closely with NHS South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group to develop this service and now residents will be able to visit 39 pharmacies across the borough to give advice and treatment for minor illnesses that will hopefully reduce pressure on other NHS services.
“Pharmacists study for five years to become fully trained. They are experts in the use of medicines, fully qualified to diagnose and treat minor illnesses, and are able to recognise when you may need a doctor’s help. For many common illnesses, your local pharmacist can provide free help and advice to help you and your family feel better.”
Dr Matthew Walmsley, Chair of NHS South Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “With NHS services across the country under pressure from increasing demand, it’s more important than ever to choose the right service for your needs. Most patients use the NHS sensibly, but a significant minority still go to A&E for problems that could be better dealt with by a pharmacist or a GP.
“We consulted thousands of people about the urgent care review, and many people felt that the advice available from pharmacists could be promoted more widely. Over the next few weeks we will be promoting Think Pharmacy First through a poster campaign, newspaper, online and Facebook advertising, and a leaflet to every home in the borough in September.
“The urgent care review is all about ensuring that people are guided to the right service for their needs, so that A&E can concentrate on genuine emergencies, and everyone has a part to play in helping the NHS locally to operate as efficiently as possible.”
Consultations with pharmacists are completely confidential, and most pharmacies can offer a private area to talk about symptoms. If you are worried about one of your children, you can go straight to the pharmacy to discuss the problem with the pharmacist, even if your child is not present.
If your condition is more serious, the pharmacist will be able to refer you to the right NHS service for your needs.
To find your nearest pharmacy, or for more information about Think Pharmacy First, visit: www.southtynesideccg.nhs.uk/thinkpharmacyfirst
How can Think Pharmacy First help you?
We know that some people visit their GP with minor illnesses, which their local pharmacist could help with.
By visiting your local pharmacy, you could save yourself time and, with no appointment needed, you can walk in at a time convenient to you.
If you have a family and you’re worried about one of your children, you can go straight to the pharmacy and discuss any problems with the pharmacist, even without your child being there.
All pharmacists provide free help and advice, and can recommend medicine if you need it.
Many pharmacies also have a confidential room where you can go and discuss your medical needs in private.
If your condition is more serious they will refer you to your GP. What’s more, many pharmacies are open in the evenings and at the weekend.
Visit www.southtynesideccg.nhs.uk/thinkpharmacyfirst or call NHS 111 to find out more.
Where is Think Pharmacy First available?
ALL community pharmacies in South Tyneside are taking part in the scheme.
There are 39 community pharmacies in South Tyneside, with 17 open on Saturdays and three on Sundays.
99% of South Tyneside residents can get to a pharmacy within 20 minutes by car, and 96% by walking or using public transport.
Asda, Coronation Street and Tesco Simonside are open 100 hours per week, and Asda Boldon is open 90 hours a week, with late night opening.
To find your nearest pharmacy, visit: www.southtynesideccg.nhs.uk/thinkpharmacyfirst
For any further advice, or information when the pharmacy is closed, please call NHS 111.
Can I get free medicine?
If you don’t normally pay for your medicines, then you don’t need to pay with Think Pharmacy First – you can get them free, and over the counter from your local pharmacist without the need to see your GP.