by Jodie Williamson, Pharmacist and Professional Development and Engagement Lead at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in Wales.
We often hear about the pressures facing the NHS during the winter months but did you know that there are steps that we can all take to stay well this Winter that can help to relieve this pressure?
The right service for your needs
One of the most important things you can do is to ensure that you are accessing the right NHS service for your needs. Many health problems can be resolved without the need for a GP appointment and in these cases, your local pharmacist is there to provide advice and support. In some cases, they can even provide treatment on prescription or free of charge through services such as the Common Ailments Service (CAS). This allows you to see your pharmacist for a long list of common conditions, including coughs and colds. You will receive advice and any necessary treatment free of charge. CAS is currently available in more than 220 pharmacies in Wales and the Welsh Government has made funding available to roll it out to all pharmacies in Wales by 2020.
Don’t head to the GP unless it’s absolutely necessary
There are a number of other services available from your local pharmacy, which can prevent a trip to the doctor’s. For example, you don’t need to see your GP for emergency contraception (often referred to as the morning after pill). It is available to buy over the counter from most pharmacies, and many pharmacists are also registered to provide it free of charge following a short consultation to make sure it is appropriate for you to take. This will be done in a private consultation room and you don’t need to tell anyone else what you are there for – just ask for a private chat with the pharmacist.
All pharmacists are also able to provide advice and support to those wishing to stop smoking, and in many pharmacies quitting aids such as nicotine patches, lozenges and chewing gum are available free of charge through a smoking cessation service. Why not ask about your options next time you pick up a prescription?
Keep well over the Christmas break
With Christmas just around the corner, it’s time to think about making sure you have enough medication to see you through the Christmas period. As Christmas day falls on a Monday this year, most pharmacies will be closed on 24th, 25th and 26th December, with many also closed on Saturday 23rd so if your medication is due on these dates you will need to order early to guarantee you don’t run out. The team at your local pharmacy will be able to advise whether this applies to you and can help to make sure you’re not left without. In many cases they will even order your medication for you, making that one more thing you can tick off your to-do list.
For more information on how to stay well, visit the NHS Wales Choose Well site