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Pharmacists in Northern Ireland will save GPs 30,000 consultations this winter by seeing patients with minor ailments.

Under a new scheme launched this month, pharmacists at accredited outlets will assess, advise and treat patients who present with symptoms of minor coughs, colds, headaches and sore throats.

The Department of Health Social Services and Public Safety has rolled out the scheme after successfully piloting it last winter.

Dr Norman Morrow, Chief Pharmaceutical Officer for Northern Ireland said: 'This new scheme will take some pressure off GP practices allowing doctors more time to deal with serious complaints.'

'People now have the choice and convenience of visiting their local pharmacy where they can access expert advice on minor ailments and where appropriate free medicines without the need for a prescription.'

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