North Tyneside CCG News

You can help the NHS by thinking pharmacy first

Mon 26th January 2015

Local pharmacies can play a key part in easing winter pressures on NHS services in the North East, say senior doctors and nurses in the region.

With Accident and Emergency services under pressure, NHS leaders in the region have called on patients to think carefully before going to A&E – and say that pharmacies can provide the best solution for many patients with common illnesses.

Dr John Matthews, a local GP and Chair of NHS North Tyneside Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “Pharmacists are highly trained and very much an underused resource in terms of the advice they can offer to patients. Many people don’t realise that pharmacists train for five years, which is only a year less than GPs, so you can rely on them for detailed knowledge of medicines.

“With over 700 pharmacies in the North East and no need to make an appointment, it’s far simpler to ask a pharmacist about minor things like coughs, headaches and winter vomiting.

“By asking a pharmacist you can save time, get the treatment you need, and free up NHS resources for the most urgent cases.

“Some pharmacies can provide medicines for common illnesses free to people who do not pay for their prescriptions, as part of the Think Pharmacy First scheme.

“That can include things like coughs, colds, headaches, hay fever, insect bites and stings, eczema, earache and diarrhoea, so it’s worth asking your local pharmacist for details.

“A&E and the 999 service are for serious emergencies like major accidents, broken bones, breathing problems, severe chest pains, unconsciousness, severe blood loss or suspected stroke.”

Over the past few weeks, A&E services across the North East have faced unprecedented attendance levels. This is due to a range of factors including an increase in respiratory illnesses and a spike in demand for admissions among frail and elderly patients, and those with chronic and long-term conditions.

“Clinical commissioning groups and NHS trusts across the region are working closely together to coordinate the NHS’s response to winter pressures,” said Dr Matthews. “That is why we are calling on patients to play their part in easing pressure on the system by using pharmacists or calling NHS 111 when it is not an emergency.

“If you need help quickly or suddenly feel ill but are not a 999 emergency, use a walk-in centre or urgent care centre

“We would always encourage patients to come to A&E if they need urgent medical attention, but it’s important to remember that A&E means Accident & Emergency, not Anything and Everything.”

Details of local pharmacists, and useful winter health advice are available at