RESIDENTS feeling under the weather this winter will be able to get treatment in some cases without seeing a doctor.
Even those who have started 2012 with a drive to be healthier and fitter can pick up minor ailments in the cold conditions.
And in Northumberland, people with illnesses such as a sore throat, indigestion, a stomach upset and the common cold are being reminded to Think Pharmacy First.
It offers patients who qualify for free prescriptions due to low income the choice of going straight to their community pharmacy for a consultation, advice and, if appropriate, treatment.
The NHS North of Tyne scheme also informs families about the benefits of visiting their local pharmacist for over-the-counter medicine, advice and support for a range of conditions which do not persist.
Lynemouth Pharmacy Community Pharmacist Austin Fleming said: “The scheme offers patients who qualify the choice of going directly to see their pharmacist, without an appointment, for a consultation where they will be given advice and free over-the-counter medicine, where appropriate, to treat minor ailments. They will be referred to a GP where necessary.
“Some minor ailments can be more prevalent during certain seasons. A good example is the common cold in winter, which many people seek treatment for.
“In the past, patients with minor ailments who were entitled to free prescriptions may have made an appointment to see their GP for a prescription and then subsequently visited their community pharmacy to pick up their prescribed medication.
“But now you may not need two appointments when a visit to your local pharmacist is much quicker.”
The campaign was launched in 2009 and all community pharmacies in the Northumberland area are involved.
Medical Director for NHS North of Tyne Dr Mike Guy said: “Pharmacists are experts in the use of medicines and can give you free advice and treatment straightaway, and if they think you need to see another health professional, they will tell you where to go.
“If patients choose the right health services it ensures they get the treatment they need in the shortest possible time, reducing the demand for GP appointments and freeing up GP time for people with more serious health concerns.”
Those who are unsure whether they are entitled to be treated through the Think Pharmacy First scheme can call into their nearest pharmacy for guidance.