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When help is at hand and not just from your GP

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As many readers will already have picked up on television adverts as well as other publicity, the NHS is spreading the message that both care and treatment for several basic conditions is now available from other health professionals, as well as from the local GP surgery. 

This government campaign has the full support of Dr Helen Kingston, the senior partner at the town’s largest GP practice, the Frome Medical Practice.

“Pharmacists and others have had the power to prescribe for some time and this current campaign has my full support,” says Dr Kingston. “Most patients understand that GP surgeries are increasingly coming under pressure from both decreased budgets and difficulties over recruiting doctors as GPs. Anything that helps to make the health system work together to assist patients get the help they need is welcome.”

Sharing the same building as Dr Kingston at the Frome Medical Centre is pharmacist Naomi Bates. Naomi has been working at the St Aldhelm’s Pharmacy since 2012. The current NHS campaign also has her full support.

“My colleagues and I have now been operating the Minor Ailment Scheme at Frome for some time,” says Naomi. “Basically, the scheme is designed to enable patients with minor health conditions to access medicines and advice they would otherwise see a doctor for. The scheme means that patients can now see a qualified health professional at a convenient time and place without having to arrange and possibly wait for a GP appointment.”

The sort of conditions that Naomi and her colleagues at St Aldhelm’s are currently allowed to treat include UTI for female patients (cystitis), conjunctivitis and common skin conditions for children. Along with the pharmacy at Asda in Frome (who are also able to prescribe for erectile dysfunction) St Aldhelm’s can also supply the ‘morning after’ pill. Together with the Acorn Pharmacy at Lock’s Hill and Lloyds at Stonebridge, Naomi and her colleagues at St Aldhelm’s are part of the Patient Group Directive which means that as pharmacists they are able to prescribe some medicines to groups of patients, as well as GPs having that power.

It is however not just pharmacists who are able to treat patients directly, when once that was the sole remit of the GP.

Darren Kirton is the optometrist director with Eyetech Opticians Limited, which currently takes part in the pan-Somerset ACES scheme (Acute Community Eyecare Scheme).

“Along with many of my professional optometrist colleagues, for some time we have been able to treat patients under the NHS at our acute eye-care clinics, for such conditions as red eye, reduced vision and also when there is a foreign body in the eye,” says Darren. “Most conditions I see can be treated simply as well as locally. However, I can also triage and refer more complicated cases directly to RUH in Bath if required. It makes a lot of common sense to me to try and take some of the pressures off the local GP surgeries and Minor Injuries Units with regards to eyecare problems.”

Above: Naomi Bates

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