Each year, around 18 million GP appointments and 2.1 million A&E visits are made for self-treatable conditions, such as coughs and colds, costing the NHS more than £850 million each year — the equivalent of more than 220,000 hip replacements or 880,000 cataract operations.
While many minor illnesses can be dealt with by the pharmacy team, new research by NHS England reveals that only 19% of adults would consider visiting their community pharmacist first for help for a minor health concern. This went down to just 6% for parents of young children. Instead, 35% of parents would opt for an appointment with their GP, while 5% of those questioned would choose emergency care as their first port of call. These findings correspond to earlier research showing that parents and carers tend to have a lower risk threshold for their children, which, of course, is understandable. All of this is set against the background of pharmacists being one of the most ‘trusted’ professions in the eye of many public surveys.
It is in this climate that NHS England has launched its national Stay Well Pharmacy campaign, targeted at parents of children under 5 years. By promoting the use of community pharmacy services, we aim to make the best use of the clinical expertise of community pharmacists and pharmacy technicians while relieving some of the pressure on GPs and A&E departments. Critically, we want to get across the message that pharmacists are well trained to spot a ‘minor illness’ that may be more serious and to help their patients get the help they need quickly.
Stay Well Pharmacy reminds people that local pharmacy teams offer a fast, convenient and safe clinical service for minor health concerns with an added advantage of not needing an appointment.
We are raising the profile of community pharmacists and pharmacy technicians as clinical practitioners to help increase public understanding of their role in the wider NHS care system. This is consistent with a piece of work currently out for consultation that aims to promote self-care for minor or self-limiting conditions.
During this campaign has many strands of activity, including TV and poster advertising, social media activity and partnerships with community pharmacies, local authorities, GP surgeries, charities and community hubs. Campaign assets feature both the prominent green cross pharmacy logo and pharmacy professionals, adding a further degree of reassurance to the messaging.
Source: Courtesy of Bruce Warner
In launching this campaign, we want to see Stay Well Pharmacy develop into much more than a short-term piece of work and instead facilitate longer-term behaviour change, which will have a lasting positive impact on the NHS.
We can look back at previous public health campaigns that drive behaviour change for an indication of potential success. The Stay Well This Winter campaign, for example, to reduce preventable emergency admissions to hospital during winter, launched in 2015. It prompted over 3 million people to seek earlier advice and treatment from pharmacies in its first two years. We hope to show similar successes with the Stay Well Pharmacy campaign.
Thank you to everyone who has supported the campaign so far, and please watch out for more developments on NHS Choices and in the campaign resource centre.
The nationwide Stay Well Pharmacy campaign runs until 31 March 2018. For more information on the campaign, visit: www.nhs.uk/staywellpharmacy. Alternatively, to order free campaign-related resources, please visit: https://campaignresources.phe.gov.uk/resources/campaigns/56-nhs-111.