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Llŷn pharmacies' crucial role in helping the NHS cope with summer tourism boom

Pharmacists in one of Wales’ tourist hotspots are playing a crucial role in helping to meet unprecedented demand for health care services over the summer months.

With COVID-19 restrictions eased, visitors have flocked to the Llŷn Peninsula in record numbers this summer.

Pharmacies across North Wales have been playing their part in reducing the impact of tourism on local NHS services. All pharmacies are able to supply emergency repeat medication to tourists who have forgotten their medicines at home.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board has also enabled holidaymakers to access  the community pharmacy minor ailment scheme, which provides expert advice and guidance about treating common conditions and their symptoms.

In the Dwyfor area, with funding from the local GP Cluster, additional pharmacy assistance has been provided in a small number of pharmacies to enable tourists to access timely and appropriate support for a range of acute conditions through the independent prescribing scheme.

The scheme enables pharmacists to write prescriptions for minor illnesses, including ear, nose and throat infections, skin conditions and urinary infections.

During July and August around 850 independent prescribing consultations have been carried out by Llŷn pharmacists, with holiday makers accounting for around half of these.

This has helped to reduce attendances at Ysbyty Gwynedd’s Emergency Department and Ysbyty Bryn Beryl’s Minor Injuries Unit, while maintaining access to GP and pharmacy services for local people.

The Welsh Government aims to extend the independent prescribing scheme to every pharmacy in Wales by 2030.

Pharmacist Llyr Hughes, of Fferyllwyr Llŷn Cyf, says this summer has been the busiest he can remember, as visitors flock to the area in record numbers.

“In an area like Abersoch the population rises from around 1,500 residents to over 20,000 during the peak of summer,” he explained.

“It’s inevitable that a small percentage of these people will need to see a healthcare professional.

“We knew that this summer would be unprecedented because fewer people were holidaying abroad, so we approached our GP cluster colleagues to ensure we were well prepared.

“By investing a small amount of additional funding we’ve been able to see many more tourists who need support for their health needs. This has helped to reduce pressure on other primary care services and hospitals, maintaining access for local people.”

Llyr is encouraging tourists and locals to make better use of the range of support community pharmacies provide.

He said: “Community pharmacy ought to be the first port of call for people who have minor illnesses or conditions.

“We’re available to provide advice and support without an appointment for people who have a range of minor illnesses such as coughs, colds, sore throats, aches, pains and infections.

“By making better use of community pharmacy, people will very often have their needs met more quickly, while freeing up GP appointments and space in Emergency Departments and Minor Injury Units for those who really need them.”

For further information on accessing the most appropriate health care services, please visit the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board website: https://bcuhb.nhs.wales/services/where-do-i-go/