A campaign has been launched to raise awareness of the services and expert advice on offer in County Durham pharmacies.
There are currently 126 pharmacies in the county that provide a large variety of services, ranging from advice on and the treatment of many minor ailments, to guidance about medicine and stop smoking and drug misuse support.
Community pharmacies play a major part in relieving pressures on the NHS but there is potential for them to help more people, as not everyone is aware of services available and how accessible they are.
The Pharmacy is for Everyone campaign aims to address this by highlighting the expertise of pharmacists and encouraging people to approach their local pharmacy for advice before their GP or accident and emergency departments when suffering from minor ailments.
The campaign is being delivered by Durham County Council, County Durham and Darlington Local Pharmaceutical Committee (LPC), North Durham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Durham Dales, Easington and Sedgefield CCG.
It follows a public consultation by Healthwatch County Durham that found satisfaction with pharmacies in the county is high, but awareness of some of the services they provide is low.
This included a lack of knowledge of pharmacy consultation rooms, where the public can have private consultations.
The campaign will see increased advertising of all services within pharmacies and social media posts to reach a wider audience.
Cllr Lucy Hovvels MBE, cabinet member for adult and health services at Durham County Council, said: “We are really pleased to support the Pharmacy is for Everyone campaign, as by promoting the role of pharmacies more widely we will make more people aware of the services they provide.
“This will not only help reduce the pressure on GPs and other parts of the NHS, but it will allow patients with minor ailments to receive the treatment or medicine they need more quickly and access the numerous pharmacy services that aim to improve the health of the local community.
“Pharmacists train for five years and are experts in medicine. They work within the community and can provide advice and services at a time to suit patients. That’s why your local pharmacy really should be your first port of call.”
The campaign was officially launched at Storehouse Pharmacy in West Rainton, which was named North East Pharmacy of the Year at the English Independent Retail Awards.
Greg Burke, chief officer of County Durham and Darlington LPC, said: “The care and services provided by the team at Storehouse are replicated in community pharmacies across County Durham and Darlington. Ease of access, the highly skilled and experienced workforce and the fact that patients can have a one-to-one consultation in private all contribute to community pharmacy being a vital provider of health services.”