Residents can now get treatment for seven common illnesses at Watford pharmacies under a new NHS scheme.

Patients will no longer have to wait for a GP appointment to receive treatment for minor conditions such as sore throat or ear infections.

Watford chemists have praised the NHS Pharmacy First initiative, which launched on January 31, and aims to reduce pressure on general practice services by referring patients to local pharmacists for treatment.

The list of eligible illnesses is: infected insect bites, shingles, sinusitis, sore throat, uncomplicated urinary tract infections in women, the skin infection Impetigo, and middle ear infections.

The NHS said over 10,000 pharmacies had signed up to the scheme since it was announced in November and estimates it will save up to 10 million GP appointments a year.

Anish Dave, 41, owner and pharmacist at Hinton’s Pharmacy in The Parade, said he believes the scheme will have a positive impact for local patients.

He said: “I think I was a bit apprehensive as there's a lot of work, but once I did the training and understood the process about it, I'm quite hopeful that this would be good for the community.”

Anish said his patients were “happy” and “relieved” to hear about the scheme as they’re finding it difficult to get GP appointments and have even resorted to going to A&E for minor illness.

He added: “Some patients are very frustrated, especially the elderly, who’ve got nowhere else to go. I try to help them as much as I can, and I think this will be beneficial for them.”

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Patients can walk into a pharmacy without appointment to access the service, even if they are not registered with a GP.

They can also be referred to chemists by NHS 111, emergency departments or their GP. 

Ritesh Shah, 55, owner and pharmacist at One Stop Pharmacy in Leavesden Road, also felt the initiative was a positive idea.

“The patient can just walk in and we are open for long hours. There's a pharmacy almost on every road so nobody has to go that far for treatment.”

Ritesh said he was “prepared” for the extra workload the scheme will entail but said it will “take the load off” GPs who he felt were “overly stressed”.