Local pharmacies are amazing places where you can get help with everything from a sore throat to emergency contraception. You can get your blood pressure checked at some pharmacies, as well as support to help you stop smoking or the jabs you need to jet off on holiday.
Plus, you can be reassured that any advice you get from a pharmacist is the result of at least five years’ training in the use of medicines.
Many pharmacies are open for extended hours and at weekends – some as late as midnight and on public holidays. And you don’t need to book ahead.
Community pharmacies are among the NHS’s most trusted and underestimated services”Dr Sy Ganesaratnam, Merton GP
But not everyone is putting these hidden gems to go good use. According to lead GP for Merton Dr Sy Ganesaratnam: “Community pharmacies are among the NHS’s most trusted and underestimated services – many people just haven’t realised the incredible range of support and advice they offer locally – usually without the need for an appointment.
The NHS is doing all it can to ensure patients get the help they need in the right place at the right time”Dr Caroline Scott, Wandsworth GP
Wandsworth GP Dr Caroline Scott says: “The NHS is doing all it can to ensure patients get the help they need in the right place at the right time, regardless of whether they access services by calling NHS111 or using NHS111 online, speaking to their local GP practice or visiting a pharmacist.
If you have a health concern, your local pharmacy could be the place to get the help you need. But if symptoms suggest it’s something more serious, pharmacists have the training to direct you to the right place – so they will tell you if you need to see a GP, nurse or other healthcare professional.
To explain, we answer some of the most frequently asked questions about when to visit your local pharmacy.
When should I consult a pharmacist?
There is a huge range of conditions pharmacists can help – here are a few examples:
- Mild skin conditions, such as acne, eczema, psoriasis and impetigo.
- Sore throats.
- Tummy trouble.
- Eye infections.
- Bites and stings.
- Vomiting, indigestion, diarrhoea.
- Head lice (nits).
And when should I consult a doctor rather than a pharmacist?
As we’ve said, your pharmacist has the right training to advise you whether you need to see another health professional. But if you feel you have a more significant health issue, seek medical advice from NHS 111 or you GP. For health emergencies ring 999 or visit A&E.
What else can pharmacists do?
Pharmacists also provide advice to people with long-term health conditions, such as type 2 diabetes, and give you support if you’re taking new medicines. For example, if you have asthma, they might help you with your inhaler technique.
Other services that some pharmacies offer include:
- chlamydia screening and treatment
- a stop smoking service
- blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar testing
- substance misuse service, including needle and syringe exchange schemes
- weight management service
- flu vaccination.
I don’t want to talk about my health worries in the shop
Most pharmacies have a private consultation room where you can discuss issues with pharmacy staff without being overheard. Just ask!
Are pharmacists qualified to give advice?
All pharmacists train for five years in the use of medicines. They are also trained in managing minor illnesses and providing health and wellbeing advice – so yes, they’re well trained an qualified to give you the help you need.
Can I get a prescription from a pharmacist?
As well as dispensing of NHS prescriptions, many pharmacists offer a repeat prescription service (with patient consent). They may also supply medicines in an emergency, subject to the decision of the pharmacist (you may need to pay for an emergency supply).
Pharmacists are the go-to experts when it comes to the best non-prescription medicines to use for your health issue. You can also buy certain products classified as ‘pharmacy-only medicines’ which are not usually displayed on the shelves – your pharmacists will advise.
Can I get the morning after pill from a pharmacy?
Yes, you can visit many pharmacies for emergency contraception – check the NHS find a pharmacy service to see whether your local pharmacy offers this service.
Do pharmacies deliver medicines?
Some pharmacies will deliver your prescription right to your door, but you may need to pay for this service. Visit the NHS find a pharmacy service or ask at your pharmacy.
Can I take old medicines to my pharmacy?
Yes, if your medicine is out of date, unwanted, or some of it is left over after you have stopped taking it, do not put it in your household bin or flush it down the toilet. Instead, take it to your pharmacy to be disposed of safely.
Find your local pharmacy
Find more about how pharmacies can help you on the NHS website