Have you ever found it hard to get an appointment at your local GP, or been frustrated at the long queue?
All of us need medical advice at some point, whether it’s for a minor cough or a more serious concern. But do we need to always visit the doctor?
In order to provide better access to healthcare, there is a growing trend to give pharmacists a greater role in the treatment of minor ailments. Pharmacists would act as the first point of call for patients who need advice for non-serious or chronic ailments.
This not only gives patients better access to health advice, it also eases the pressure on GPs and gives them more time to address more serious ailments and preventative health.
Some in the medical profession have reservations, while others are more supportive. A recent survey undertaken by research company, CDS on behalf of the Australian Self-Medication Industry canvassed the view of 150 GPs.
It found that 29 per cent of GPs believed it would be better if patients with minor ailments such as coughs and colds were encouraged to visit a pharmacist as a first port of call for such ailments. Some 71 per cent disagreed, indicating there is still a way to go to gain the full support of the medical community.
Pharmacists are a well-established part of local communities throughout Australia. They are highly qualified, trusted and accessible, and are well-placed to provide advice on the most common minor ailments – such things as upper respiratory tract infection, back pain, diarrohea and gastroenteritis, joint pain, coughs, viral infection, malaise and fatigue, headache and constipation.
This doesn’t mean replacing the role of GPs who continue to play a vital part on the frontline of primary healthcare. Rather, it opens up a new avenue for GPs to help promote improved health literacy – giving them the time to educate patients on the best ways to take greater responsibility for personal health through appropriate self care and preventative measures.
It also means that GPs’ time will be freed to focus on patients who most need their attention, including those with serious health concerns or illness.
A 2008 study by international health industry consultants, IMS, found that 15 per cent of all GP consultations involve the treatment of minor ailments. When projected nationally, the study suggests that a total of 25 million GP consultations annually, or approximately 96,000 consultations per day involve minor ailments.
No one wants to feel rushed during their GP consultation because of a backlog of people, some with coughs, colds and other minor ailments that could be managed through a pharmacist or appropriate self care. Neither do GPs want to feel pressured to rush their consultations due to time pressures.
Clearly there is a need to look at ways of better utilising our highly trained health workforce. It makes sense to use the skills of the Australia-wide community pharmacy network.
With support from government, the health sector and the community, pharmacists could play a valuable role in helping to improve health outcomes for all Australians.
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Would you be prepared to visit your pharmacist as a first point of call for a minor ailment (eg: coughs, colds, gastroenteritis, headaches)? Click here to vote.