With the resources of the National Health Service being continually stretched NHS England has moved to encourage more use of local pharmacies. However, many people have been told to visit their GP when something is wrong for years, which makes going to a pharmacy seem somewhat counterintuitive. Furthermore, knowing which symptoms do and don’t need to be checked by a doctor isn’t easy for the layman. So, when exactly should you choose the pharmacy over a doctor’s visit?
Use the Pharmacy for Minor Illnesses
On those occasions when you get struck down with a sore throat, nasty cough, or general rubbish feeling you should choose the pharmacy before you get a doctor’s appointment. Not only can you get basic over the counter lozenges and painkillers but the professional pharmacists present have the expertise to give you something stronger if needed. This can save you time waiting around for a doctor’s appointment and getting them to write a prescription, helping you treat the illness earlier.
They can also provide medications and other medical items that aren’t illness specific. Pregnancy tests, morning-after pills and even disposal of expired medication and syringes are services that pharmacies can provide with the benefit of expert assistance.
Pharmacies Can Offer Advice
It’s sometimes forgotten that pharmacists are well trained when it comes to medicating common illnesses and their knowledge can be utilised. If your illness doesn’t need a specialist to diagnose it the pharmacist can offer advice on how to manage symptoms instead. They can even advise you if you should visit a doctor. This also extends to helping you correctly use medical items for those adjusting to a new daily illness, such as inhalers or testing diabetic blood sugar at home.
Additionally, they can help you improve your health by offering resources for things like quitting smoking, eating better, or provide consultations about your medications known as a Medicines Use Review (MUR). This will give you a better understanding of why you need – or don’t need – certain medications, providing you with greater confidence and peace of mind.
This is one area that most people who regularly use their local pharmacy will already be familiar with. If you’re on a repeat prescription – fixed term or permanent – going to your pharmacy is a huge time saver. Rather than making a two-minute appointment with your GP every time you need to refill your prescription you can instead go into the pharmacy and get it done in a fraction of the time. This both frees up time for the GP to see other patients and gets you your medication with less stress.
When Should You See a GP?
Of course, your GP is still a massively necessary medical resource, so knowing when to make an appointment is equally important. As mentioned you can ask your pharmacist about this as well but it can be useful to know when to cut out the middleman to get a quicker appointment.
If you have symptoms that are causing you significant feelings of illness – but did not appear suddenly – or have refused to disappear after visiting your pharmacist, then you should visit your GP. This may not always indicate something serious but it’s more likely to be something that requires prescription medicine or needs to be investigated further. You may be sent to a nurse instead of a doctor depending on your symptoms or previous knowledge of your condition.
So, next time you’re feeling poorly make an assessment about whether your local pharmacy is the best first stop.