Visits to the NHS England (NHSE) insect bites and stings web page were three times higher in the first three weeks of this month than in the same time period last year, suggesting an early spike in interest, a deputy chief nursing officer (CNO) has said.

According to NHSE, the page received a total of 68,986 visits in 21 days – 162% higher than the 26,368 visits to the advice in the first three weeks of May 2023.

And Acosia Nyanin, NHSE deputy CNO, said: ‘We often see a rise in insect bites and stings during the summer months, but the number of people seeking advice from the NHS website has spiked a bit earlier this year.’

The NHSE web page gives advice on removing stingers, ticks or caterpillars; washing a bite and easing symptoms using ice, painkillers, antihistamines or hydrocortisone cream.

And it directs patients to find a pharmacy where a pharmacist can ‘advise you about medicines that can help ease the symptoms of a bite or sting’ and ‘can also provide other treatments if you need them, without you seeing a GP'.

Infected insect bites are one of the seven common conditions that pharmacists in England can now provide prescription-only medicine for, under the Pharmacy First patient group direction (PGD) service.

But early data from the Company Chemists’ Association suggested that it was the least-utilised pathway in the first month of the service (February), making up just 3% of Pharmacy First consultations carried out by the large pharmacy multiples.

Of the 1,132 infected insect bite consultations that met the ‘gateway’ criteria, 104 (9%) resulted in advice only, 975 (86%) resulted in medicines supplied, 28 (2%) resulted in non-urgent signposting and 25 (2%) were escalated urgently.