Pharmacies in the Rhondda and Cynon Valley are taking part in a new pilot service to assess sore throat symptoms.

The service is part of the Common Ailments Scheme, which encourages patients to visit their community pharmacist instead of their GP if they feel they need NHS advice to manage common symptoms, such as sore throat, heartburn, conjunctivitis, thrush and threadworm.

Pharmacists will assess patients’ symptoms by undertaking a sore throat examination, including a simple throat swab test for those with symptoms which suggest they have a bacterial infection. The results of the test are available in minutes and will help the pharmacist and patient decide on the best treatment and advice to manage the symptoms.

Emma Williams, Lead Pharmacist for Community Pharmacy and Primary Care, said: ”This time of year sore throats are very common and are usually caused by minor illnesses such as colds and flu.

“Most sore throats can be managed at home with medicines you have in your medicines cupboard, and won’t need advice from a healthcare professional. However, it’s a good idea to visit your pharmacist for advice if your symptoms are severe, haven’t started to improve after a week or you are unsure about your symptoms and how best to treat them.”

Local pharmacist Dai Williams, of Central Pharmacy, Pentre, said: “If you feel that your sore throat is severe or not improving, visit your local pharmacy first. You will be seen that day, by a highly qualified member of the healthcare team, who will be able to offer advice and / or treatment at that point. If it requires further investigation, the pharmacist can direct you to the correct place to be seen. The NHS belongs to all of us, use its services wisely so choose well and choose pharmacy as your first point of contact.”

Dr David Miller, of Forest View Medical Practice, said: “This is a really exciting new service which will serve those patients who are worried about a severe or persistent sore throat. It’s an additional resource which we are very grateful for as GPs entering the busy winter period.

“Crucially the time your GP might have spent seeing patients with sore throats will be free for quicker access for your family, friends and neighbours with more complex illness to be seen. I would strongly encourage patients over the age of six -years-old with a sore throat and who need advice from a healthcare professional to access this free NHS service in the first instance.”

The initial findings have seen over 400 patients access this service in Cwm Taf between Nov 18 and start of Feb 19, this was from the start of the project and it is expected to increase as awareness increases.

Three quarters of patients were not treated with antibiotics as these were not needed and the vast majority of those followed up did not require or access further services.

Over 90% of the patients indicated that they would have sought an appointment with their GP if this service wasn’t available.

Suzanne Scott-Thomas, Clinical Director of Medicines Management CTMUHB, said “We are very pleased with the initial findings of this pilot and will be considering commissioning in more community pharmacies across the health board in time for next winter. This service supports primary care in freeing up more time in GP practices so that sicker patients can be seen and also supports the appropriate use of antibiotics”

Find out which pharmacies are piloting the scheme here.

General Advice on Managing Sore Throats (from NHS Direct Wales)

New sore throat test and treat service in local pharmacies means you can get expert advice and treatment quickly