Pharmacists play a key role in providing quality healthcare. They are experts in medicines and will use their clinical expertise, together with their practical knowledge to advise you on common problems such as coughs, colds, aches and pains, as well as healthy eating and stopping smoking.
Pharmacists can also help you decide whether you need to see a health professional. They can help you consider the alternatives next time you are thinking of making a doctor's appointment.
Pharmacists are highly trained health professionals. Before becoming a pharmacist they will have completed a four year university degree and have worked for a year under the supervision of an experienced and qualified pharmacist, usually in a hospital or community pharmacy (such as a supermarket or high street pharmacy).
All pharmacists have to be registered with the regulatory body for pharmacy professionals, the General Pharmaceutical Council. As well as working in hospitals, community pharmacies and the pharmaceutical industry, you can find pharmacists working in a variety of places, such as in prisons, teaching and research facilities, and the military.
Community pharmacists dispense and check prescriptions and provide advice to patients on the medicines that have been prescribed for them, for example, providing advice on how to take the medicines and advising on common side effects. Many NHS prescriptions are now issued via the Electronic Prescription Service.
Community pharmacists will take back medicines that are no longer required so they can be disposed of correctly, and they can also provide advice on minor illnesses and staying healthy. Most (but not all) pharmacists are also able to offer other services to their patients.
What services do pharmacies offer?
All pharmacies will provide the following services:
disposal of unwanted or out-of-date medicines
advice on treatment of minor conditions and healthy living
Other services that may be available from your local pharmacy:
Medicines Use Reviews
Condom supply service
Emergency supply of prescription medicines
Independent prescribing by pharmacists – some pharmacists can now prescribe prescription-only medicines for certain medical conditions
Minor ailment service
Needle and syringe exchange service
Stop smoking voucher service
Supervised consumption of prescribed medicines
If you have a long-term condition and you have been prescribed a new medicine for the first time, you may want to ask your pharmacist for the New Medicine Service. The pharmacist will then explain everything you need to know about your new medicine, including how to take it and advise you about any common side-effects.
To ensure you're provided with the right medicine (including non-prescription medicines) and/or advice, the pharmacist may ask you a range of questions. These may include:
Have you taken the medicine before?
Who is the medicine for?
What are the symptoms?
How long have you had these symptoms?
What action has already been taken?
Are you taking any other medicines for this or any other conditions?
You can talk to your pharmacist in confidence, even about the most personal symptoms, and you don't need to make an appointment. It is possible to walk into any community pharmacy and ask to speak with the pharmacist. Most pharmacies now have a private consultation area where you can discuss issues with pharmacy staff without being overheard. Alternatively you can arrange a consultation over the phone.