Many people look for a prescription to fix their illness, despite the same treatment often being available over the counter more cheaply. Pharmacists, practice nurses and other healthcare professionals can provide the same care whilst reducing the workload for General Practitioners (GPs).
So should we all be heading to our local pharmacy instead of a GP?
The pharmacist will see you now
Although there is no formal list of ailments you should go to a pharmacist about, common sense and evaluating the severity of the illness or injury should help you know who to see. With any condition, take a 'cough' for example, there'll be a range of levels of severity of the illness and that determines the type of care required. Many patients with a cough will simply manage their own condition, which is called 'self-care' and is entirely appropriate for most people.
However, there are some patients who have additional symptoms or medical history which mean that they will require the support of the pharmacist for advice and recommendations about how best to manage their condition. And similarly, there are some patients, a minority, where a cough is even further complicated, and they will require the support of their general practitioner.
Conditions like athlete's foot can easily be recognized by the pharmacist, who can explain the range of different treatments and help you choose one to suit you. If you normally pay for a prescription you may find it's cheaper to buy it anyway. Or your GP may not give you a prescription but just tell you to talk to the pharmacy.
As trained professionals, pharmacists can assess a health condition and treat a patient or direct them to another service.
The role of the pharmacist in all of this is to undertake some clinical assessment of the patients attending the pharmacy and to make appropriate judgements about the correct course of action for each patient. Therefore, it should be reassuring to know that if you attend a pharmacy you will receive healthcare advice that is appropriate for you at that time. Pharmacists across Barbados are performing this role dozens of times each day.
Pharmacy treatments - just as good as prescriptions
Until a couple of decades ago, virtually every licensed medication needed a doctor's prescription. Since then, hundreds of medicines have been reclassified and are available without prescription, but only following a consultation with a pharmacist.
So pharmacists are often providing exactly the same medicine you would get from your GP, but without the cost and wait for a GP appointment. There are many complaints for which seeing a pharmacist first could benefit you. Some examples might be:
- Aches and pains (eg back pain, headache and migraine, period pain, teething and toothache).
- Allergies (eg bites and stings, skin reactions).
- Colds and flu (eg cough, congestion, sore throat, fevers and/or temperature).
- Ear care (eg earache, ear wax, ear infection).
- Eye care (eg bacterial conjunctivitis, sties).
- Stomach aches eg. constipation, diarrhea, hemorrhoids, indigestion, reflux, threadworm, vomiting).
- Skin/mouth problems (eg athlete's foot, chickenpox, cold sores, contact dermatitis, fungal infection, nappy rash, scabies, skin rash, vaginal thrush, warts and verrucae).
- Hay fever which isn't controlled by standard over-the-counter treatments
Your pharmacist can also offer you advice on healthy living, like diet, exercise and quitting smoking, as well as providing services like emergency contraception, travel vaccinations and antimalarial tablets for travelers. If you want to delay your period because you're going on holiday or have a big event coming up, they can sort that too.
How does seeing a pharmacist benefit you?
One of the benefits of using pharmacy services is that if everyone does it, more people will be able to get GP appointments when they need one.
For some conditions, you could actually get a better service by choosing a pharmacy over a doctor's office. If you see your GP for minor problems you are likely to be sent to the pharmacy anyway, so it saves time to go directly. Pharmacists may give you more time too and answer any questions you might have about how to use the treatment and what side effects or complications to look out for.
Additionally, the more flexible hours and accessible locations of pharmacies mean that getting to a pharmacist when you have a health problem will likely be easier and quicker than waiting for a GP appointment.
As a patient you get direct access - with no need to book an appointment - to someone with a huge knowledge of treatments that you can buy directly over the counter in the pharmacy.
BETTER HEALTH & BEYOND Editorial Team
At Phillips Pharmacy Online our vision is to be an integral part in transforming the way that healthcare is delivered in Barbados & beyond. We are a group of passionate people working hard to make a big positive impact on the lives of people. We work with Doctors, Pharmacists, Pharmaceutical Suppliers and most importantly, with You, to improve the health of all.
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You understand that the blog posts and comments to such blog posts (whether posted by us, our agents or bloggers, or by users) do not constitute medical advice or recommendation of any kind, and you should not rely on any information contained in such posts or comments to replace consultations with your qualified health care professionals to meet your individual needs.