The Royal College of GPs (RCGP) has said that worried parents should consider seeing a pharmacist for their unwell children as a first port of call 'but also trust their instinct’.

RCGP chair Professor Helen Stokes-Lampard highlighted pharmacists' clinical expertise in response to a new NHS England campaign encouraging parents of children with minor illnesses to see their pharmacist first.

But she stressed that pharmacists 'are not GPs' and urged parents to 'seek expert medical assistance...where genuinely unsure' about the seriousness of their children's condition.

'Highly-skilled professionals'

Professor Stokes-Lampard said: ‘Pharmacists are highly-skilled medical professionals who play an important role in advising patients on a huge variety of minor illnesses and conditions and recommending over-the-counter treatments and basic self-care guidance’.

She continued: ‘Crucially, they’re also trained to look out for symptoms that could potentially indicate serious conditions, and advise when GP or emergency care is necessary.

‘But of course, they are not GPs and in an emergency or situation where genuinely unsure, patients should always seek expert medical assistance, particularly if parents see potentially serious symptoms in their child such as a very high temperature that doesn’t respond to simple measures, features of dehydration or lethargy.

‘So, if parents notice anything of significant concern in child’s health or behaviour they should of course seek the advice of a GP or ringing NHS 111.’

Parents 'best-placed' to identify illness

NHS England's Stay Well Pharmacy campaign  aims to cut down on the millions of unnecessary trips to GP surgeries and A&E for self-treatable conditions such as coughs and tummy troubles.

Professor Stokes-Lampard continued: ‘We understand that all parents worry when their child falls ill, and that ultimately, they are best placed to identify when something really isn’t right with their child.

‘GPs and our teams across the country are currently facing intense resource and workforce pressures, and patients can certainly help to ease this pressure by seeking advice from a pharmacist where appropriate, before making an appointment to see their GP.’

This new advice from NHS is in accordance with the RCGP’s three-step guidance, which encourages patients to ask themselves whether they need to book a GP appointment.

The ‘3 before GP’ mantra refers to three questions patients should ask themselves before making an appointment, including the possibility of self care, the use of NHS Choices or similar resources and visiting to a local pharmacy.