As well as bringing dark nights and cold weather, they also bring illness. As a result, the NHS is put under increased pressure to deliver services, such as A&E and GP appointments. Community pharmacy can help.
Elderly and vulnerable people, in particular, are likely to have an increased need for care during this time – there is more than an 80 per cent chance of someone over the age of 75 needing admission to A&E during the winter¹. Therefore, it’s more important than ever that self-treatable conditions are managed via the pharmacy to help free up these services for those who really need it.
No doubt that your pharmacy will have already been inundated with customers seeking advice on how to treat winter ailments this season.
Making this contact count and using that face-to-face time to educate them on other associated and common illnesses their family might come across is key opportunity in pharmacy to help alleviate pressures on other NHS services. For example, community pharmacies can inform customers aged 65 and over and other vulnerable groups about the flu vaccination service to help them minimise the risk of flu and other more serious conditions developing, such as bronchitis or pneumonia.
Likewise, pharmacies support customers suffering from existing health conditions that can be worsened in the winter, such as asthma or arthritis, and make sure they are well prepared to take care of themselves and their health.
It’s important to continue educating customers on how long they can expect to experience symptoms of self-treatable conditions, including coughs and colds, so that they don’t go and see the GP unnecessarily. Believe it or not, 71% of people think symptoms of a common cold should only last for 3-6 days², when symptoms can actually persist for one to two weeks. The Self Care Forum has a range of factsheets available to use during conversations with customers, found at http://www.selfcareforum.org/fact-sheets/.
Community pharmacies can support the NHS ‘Stay Well This Winter’ campaign by displaying posters and leaflets and signposting customers to the website www.nhs.uk/staywell, which offers great winter health advice on a range of common winter illnesses and how to treat them.
PAGB member companies will also be supporting the campaign by using the Stay Well This Winter logo on relevant cough, cold and sore throat product advertising.
Winter ailments might not seem like a big deal for many people, but they can be more serious for some, so a little bit of advice from community pharmacy really can go a long way.