Community pharmacists against common infections

Jonathan BurtonArticle by Jonathan Burton, Community pharmacist, Vice Chair of the Scottish Pharmacy Board

I work in a community pharmacy setting and as you might imagine I see many people through the day who present with various symptoms, wanting advice about their ailments and how to treat them. As winter closes in, these symptoms are for the most part those associated with seasonal coughs and colds, sore throats and ear ache.

As an independent prescriber in a community pharmacy, I run a walk-in clinic service that covers a wide range of minor ailments and as well as the assessment and treatment of a slightly wider range of common conditions, including ear, nose and throat infections. Despite having a prescription pad and being prepared to use it, the piece of paper I issue the most to patients is a leaflet explaining the duration of most common infections and how to self-manage the symptoms. It covers coughs, colds, sore throats, ear ache, and sinusitis – all things we see so very often in the community pharmacy setting.

Most of my job is essentially advising members of the public about the nature of the viral illness they have and explaining how long it should take them to get better, what to do if they don’t, and stressing the point that antibiotics are rarely necessary. It’s very satisfying work and by applying some basic clinical assessment skills e.g. taking temperature, blood pressure and pulse measurements, and where needed ear and throat examination, I can add further reassurance for the worried well whilst educating them about a self-limiting illness.

My work is not particularly complex, but it does allow me to deploy my communication, assessment, and medicines related knowledge and skills in a way that I believe is genuinely helpful in a public health sense and also relieves pressure on other parts of the health service.

Further read: NICE is urging GPs to manage most common ear infections with pain relief rather than antibiotics

NICE right to advise against antibiotics for most ear infections

RPS Antibiotic resistance and stewardship campaign

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