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As the winter season takes hold, local GP practices are reporting a rise in people reporting symptoms of respiratory conditions such as coughs and colds.

In the last week, GP practices across Bradford district and Craven have seen high numbers of patients with coughs and colds with one GP group, composed of 10 surgeries, receiving over 2,000 online requests and over 800 phone calls.

To help free up capacity in GP practices, Bradford District and Craven Health and Care Partnership is asking people to speak to their pharmacist first as an appropriate alternative to get fast and effective advice for treating coughs and colds.

Louise Clarke, GP and Programme Director for Healthy Communities at Bradford District and Craven Health and Care Partnership, said: “Community pharmacists are part of the NHS family and are qualified healthcare professionals who can offer clinical advice and over-the-counter medicines for a range of minor health ailments such as coughs and colds.

“By following the expert advice of community pharmacists, you can be seen without the need for an appointment, which not only helps relieve demand on GP practices, but most importantly prevents an illness getting worse and getting well again sooner.”

In addition to GPs, within primary care are a range of trained specialists available to help patients get the right care at the right time, including pharmacists, physiotherapists, nurses and mental health practitioners. Pharmacists train for a minimum of four years to offer expert clinical advice on a wide range of long-term conditions and common illnesses such as coughs, colds, sore throats, stomach upsets, aches and pains.

Doctor Phillippa Smith, a GP partner in Keighley, added:  “Our community’s wellbeing is our top priority especially during the challenging winter months. We understand the impact that coughs and colds can have on individuals, and we are here if needed.

“Whilst demand is particularly high, to help patients get help as swiftly as possible, visiting your local pharmacy is a convenient and accessible way to treat coughs and colds. If symptoms suggest it’s something more serious, pharmacists have the right clinical training to make sure you get the help you need and can signpost patients to a GP or A&E where necessary.”

A local campaign, ‘It’s a GP Practice Thing’, aims to increase public awareness of how GP practices are working, including the range of primary care services which are available to help meet people’s needs.

To help find a nearest pharmacy, visit nhs.uk/find-a-pharmacy. NHS 111 online is also available for non-urgent medical advice.