Since June 12, nearly 3500 Northland people have used a newly funded health service encouraging visits to a local pharmacist for advice and medicine for minor health conditions.
Thirty-six pharmacies in Te Tai Tokerau (Northland) are offering the Community Pharmacy Minor Health Conditions Service. The pilot programme was launched by Te Whatu Ora – Health New Zealand on June 12 and will run until Saturday, September 30.
Two Northland mothers who have used the service said they welcomed the in-store help when they would typically have had to book and wait for a doctor's appointment.
"Super helpful," said Holly
"I got pain and fever relief for my sick child without having to sort a GP visit. It was just a virus. The chemist also did a covid test to rule that out. Great service."
Another mother, Tracey, described it was "so easy."
"I used the pharmacy for a minor health condition and found it so helpful. I picked my three-year son up from daycare. He had yellow gunk in the corner of his eyes.
"Usually, I'd ring the doctor the next day to go on the triage list to be seen to get antibiotic drops. I took him straight to the local chemist. They had a look and prescribed the drops to clear it up."
Belinda Edwards, Te Whatu Ora acting business manager primary care in Te Tai Tokerau said the winter scheme had been introduced in areas where local hospitals are recognised as having consistent and persistent hospital flow challenges, including our busiest emergency departments, and wider system pressures.
These areas are Te Tai Tokerau (Northland), Auckland, Counties Manukau, Bay of Plenty, Mid Central, Wellington Canterbury, and Southland. 714 community pharmacies across the participating pharmacies have opted in to deliver the service.
"We're doing this to help relieve pressure on the health system in parts of the motu that are particularly stretched.
"A pharmacist can give you trusted advice to manage your minor health condition. Eligible people may be provided treatment options, including medicine, free of charge if recommended.
"If your condition needs further support, your pharmacist can guide you to the right place."
Pain and fever, minor skin conditions, eye infections and inflammation and scabies/headlice have been the most common condition people have sought assistance with. Pharmacists taking part in the winter health scheme can also offer advice and treatment for acute diarrhoea, dehydration, scabies and head lice, eczema and dermatitis.
While pharmacists will see walk-in customers, some may offer a booking service for consultations requiring more time and attention.
Those eligible for the service are Māori and Pacific people, children under 14 years and their whānau, and community service card holders.
The initiative is part of the Minister of Health's 2023 Winter Plan to reduce pressure on primary and hospital services. Te Whatu Ora will reimburse participating pharmacy providers for time and products provided to clients.
Surnames in the story have been withheld for children’s privacy