Community pharmacists across Manchester are set to take the pressure off busy GPs this winter by offering a minor ailments service - which includes colds and flu advice.
The service hopes to ease GP workloads where one in five consultations are for minor conditions like earaches and sore throats.
Under the plan - funded through the city's three Clinical Commissioning Groups - the pharmacist is able to supply medicines on the NHS in the same way as a GP - so that patients who are entitled to free medicines still get them.
The scheme, which also covers conditions like headaches, fever, mild eczema and dermatitis, launched in July. Since then Manchester pharmacists have carried out 2,370 consultations. Patients were asked for their views - and 74% of people who had a consultation said they would have gone to see their GP if the service had not been available. This is equates to 1,754 GP appointments.
Aneet Kapoor, chair of Manchester Local Pharmaceutical Committee, said:
"The service is all about making the most of pharmacist expertise - which is often an untapped potential.
"The pharmacist will carry out a consultation, including an assessment of symptoms and will supply medicine if needed - but in a tenth of cases medicine is not necessary.
"The pharmacist can also judge through triage if there are any areas of concern - in which case he or she would make a referral to the patient's GP for an appointment."
City centre councillor Kevin Peel said:
"At a time when our NHS is under more pressure than ever before as a result of the government's costly and unnecessary top down reorganisation, we all have a part to play in supporting the system. Visiting your pharmacist for minor conditions relieves the pressure on overburdened GPs and means those who really need appointments can access them."