Blog by Mukesh Shah, community pharmacist at Goode Pharmacy, Twickenham
Every day around 6,000 people in the borough of Richmond visit a pharmacy and almost all of us are within a short walk away from one. Many community pharmacies are open in the evenings and weekends. And you don’t need an appointment - you can just drop in.
Our pharmacists are highly skilled health professionals who can talk to you in confidence about any of your health concerns and have a private consultation room so you can’t be overheard.
Minor illnesses, like coughs and colds, hay fever and aches and pains, can be assessed by a community pharmacist and treatment recommended on the spot. This makes us a good first port of call for your illnesses before seeing a GP. However, we are often forgotten when someone is ill or in need of advice.
We know that medicines can sometimes be confusing - with or without food, when do they work best? If you don’t feel well, speak to your community pharmacist about your symptoms and they will be able to advise you on what is available without prescription and how it might interact with other medication you are taking. If needed, they will recommend you see a GP or put you in touch with other local organisations.
Your community pharmacist can also arrange to collect regular prescriptions from your GP – and if needed- they can deliver to your home at no charge to you. They also offer a range of lifestyle and health services that you may not be aware of which could save you a trip to the GP and help improve your health.
Free NHS vaccinations are available for those people more at risk of catching the flu, including pregnant women, people over 65, those with long-term health conditions, carers and frontline healthcare workers. Community pharmacists can also provide health checks, emergency contraception, advice on how to stop smoking and support with a good diet and weight loss.
Unfortunately, people very often see community pharmacists mainly as dispensers and suppliers of medicines. However, they are healthcare professionals who can provide a wide range of services to help local people stay healthy and manage their short-term and long-term illnesses.
In the borough of Richmond, there is growing support for community pharmacists taking a bigger role in patient care to free up GP and hospital services and help the NHS cope with winter pressures. Next time you feel unwell why not visit your community pharmacy first for advice, before seeing your GP.