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EDITIONS
 Monday, 13 January, 2003, 00:14 GMT
Patients choose GPs over chemists
Chemist's counter
A fifth of GPs' patients could be helped by a pharmacist
Patients know they can seek health advice of chemists but still go to see their GP, research suggests.

A survey by Boots found that 84% of people know asking a pharmacist for advice on illnesses such as coughs and colds rather than seeing their doctor will take pressure off the NHS.

But GPs say over a fifth of the patients they see could have been safely and effectively dealt with by a pharmacist.

Cutting the number of patients GPs see with minor ailments by just a quarter could save the NHS 380m each year, it is claimed.

Managing your own symptoms with help from the pharmacist is simply a win-win situation for all involved

Dr Simon Fradd, Doctor Patient Partnership
In addition to dealing with minor illness, pharmacists can also offer advice in issues such as giving up smoking, contraception and the management of long-term medical conditions such as diabetes and asthma.

The Boots research also found almost 90% of GPs agree that increased use of pharmacists would relieve pressure on them.

'No time-wasting'

Professor David Haslam, chairman of the Royal College of GPs, said: "There are indeed many simple health problems that can be dealt with extremely well by a pharmacist.

"There is a national shortage of GPs and trained primary care nurses and it is certainly logical for the skills of the pharmacist to be used when patients feel that this is appropriate."

Dr Simon Fradd, chairman of Doctor Patient Partnership, said: "Managing your own symptoms with help from the pharmacist is simply a win-win situation for all involved.

"It means patients get the quickest and most effective treatment for their minor ailments and don't waste their time sitting in GP waiting rooms,.

"GPs' time can be spent seeing patients who really need their help and pharmacists can offer effective help and advice."

He added: "These findings show that it is important for people to recognise that whether they go to the GP or pharmacist about minor ailments the advice and treatment they will be given is the same.

"Given the high street pharmacy is usually much more accessible than the GP people may often be wasting their time visiting their GP."

Be responsible

Boots has published a leaflet spelling out where patients can seek health advice, including pharmacists and GPs and telephone helpline NHS Direct and casualty departments.

The company's Janis Churton said: "We know that being in control is important to peoples' sense of wellbeing.

"This campaign sets out how people can be more responsible for their health; and how they can take control by using the right healthcare resources available to them."

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