Unique ID: 9341  Caption: A pharmacy or dispensing chemist counter. Large sign. Prescriptions. A pharmacist behind the counter talking to and serving a man with learning disabilities.  Restrictions: For use in the NHS photo library and Department of Health  Copyright: ©Crown

Pharmacists are highly experienced healthcare professionals 

People in Bedfordshire and Luton are being urged to make their local pharmacy their first port of call if they are feeling unwell this winter.

The demand for health services increases dramatically during the winter months, putting NHS staff under even more pressure. To help relieve this pressure, the public is being asked to consult with a pharmacist for all viral infections and other minor illnesses instead of making an appointment with a GP, out-of-hours service.

Pharmacists are highly experienced healthcare professionals who have completed five years training in the use of medicines. Not only does this qualify them to dispense your NHS prescription, it means they can offer advice on an extensive range of health problems.

They can recommend the most appropriate treatment for coughs and colds, back pain, travel sickness, sore throats, upset stomachs and skin rashes, to name just a few of the minor health conditions that they regularly deal with.

In addition to providing excellent healthcare advice pharmacists also offer:

  • Flu vaccinations
  • Medicines review
  • Blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar testing
  • Advice on using asthma inhalers
  • Help to stop smoking
  • Emergency contraception

Most pharmacies now have a consultation room. These ensure that patients can discuss their health problems in private just as they would with their GP. But without having to make an appointment.

If a patient has symptoms that may need further examination, the pharmacist will advise on the most appropriate course of action. For example, calling NHS 111 or making an appointment to see a GP.

With extended opening hours in the evenings and at weekends, pharmacies should be the first port of call for anyone seeking convenient, quick, professional health advice this winter. To find your nearest pharmacy visit Find a Pharmacy.