Superdrug's New In-Store Sore Throat Test Could Reduce Unnecessary GP Trips

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Winter is commonly associated with feeling run down, leading to ailments like colds, sore throats, and general tiredness. But when you're experiencing, say, a really persistent throat problem but struggling to secure a GP appointment, you may end up taking time off work to recover. Now though, thanks to Superdrug, sore throats can be treated in a matter of minutes.

The company is now offering a test and treat service across 200 stores nationwide. It simply involves rocking up to a Superdrug pharmacy and asking for a free 10-minute consultation. A pharmacist will determine your symptoms and examine your throat for tell-tale signs of an infection.

If necessary, they may also administer a five-minute swab test to see whether your issue is viral or bacterial. If the swab identifies a viral cause, antibiotics won't help. (But you'll be in the best place to pick up other treatment such as a throat spray.) But if your sore throat has a bacterial cause, you may be prescribed antibiotics, for the usual £9 prescription fee, or referred to your GP.

Note that swabs cannot identify all bacterial strains. And if your symptoms get worse or don't improve after three days, you will be advised to see your GP anyway.

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Superdrug launched a similar service in 2018, per Chemist+Druggist, but was unable to prescribe antibiotics, instead referring patients to GPs. Its ability to treat sore throats could take some pressure off the NHS.

According to Superdrug, more than a million people visit doctors' surgeries with sore throat complaints each year. And, as Cosmopolitan notes, GPs spend an estimated 200,000 hours annually dealing with sore throats with only around 10% of cases being treatable by antibiotics.

Pharmacy services such as this are expected to increase in the next few years. Lloyds Pharmacy used to offer a £4.99 sore throat service, but no longer does. However, Boots is hoping to work with the NHS to introduce sore throat testing services across England, reports Chemist+Druggist.

Boots' trial was criticised by one GP. Writing for the Guardian, Margaret McCartney pointed out that the antigen test used "has a poor sensitivity for picking up relevant bugs" and is not recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

She also questioned the level of antibiotic prescriptions for sore throats, stating they only "reduce the length of time of a sore throat by an average of 16 hours. Balanced against common side effects of antibiotics such as diarrhoea, as well as antibiotic resistance, there is often not a clear-cut reason to prescribe."

Still, with the average Brit getting a sore throat twice every winter, per the Express, a lot of people are likely to support Superdrug's new service.