We all know that pharmacists dispense medicines. But they do a lot more than that.
Did you know, for example, that pharmacies can help with stopping smoking, cutting down on alcohol, advice on safe sex and emergency contraception?
Lots of pharmacies are open until late and at weekends. You don’t need an appointment – you can just walk in.
Your pharmacist can also talk to you confidentially without anything being noted in your medical records, which some people may prefer.
Pharmacists are trained experts in using medicines safely. They can advise you on the safe use of prescription and over-the-counter medicines.
New Medicine Service
If you are prescribed an anticoagulant (a blood-thinning medicine) or a medicine to treat asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure for the first time, you can get extra help and advice about your medicine from your local pharmacist through a free scheme called the New Medicine Service (NMS).
If you’re regularly prescribed the same medicine, your pharmacist may offer to manage your repeat prescriptions. This means fewer trips to the GP just to get another prescription.
If you have a long-term medical condition that is stable, your GP may give you a repeat prescription that’s valid for up to a year. Your pharmacist can supply your medicine at regular intervals so you don’t have to keep going to your GP.
Let your pharmacist know if you are having any problems or side effects, and they can let your GP know.
Medicines Use Review (MUR)
Lots of pharmacies now offer a detailed consultation about your medicines called a Medicines Use Review (MUR).
An MUR is especially useful for people who are taking several medicines.
You can talk about what you’re taking, when you should be taking it, and any side effects you might be concerned about.
You should also tell your pharmacist if you are taking any over-the counter medicines or any herbal remedies. They can advise you whether these can be taken at the same time or not.
If you’re having problems, your pharmacist can offer advice or, if necessary, advise you to see your GP.
You can ask for an MUR, or your pharmacist or GP might recommend one. They are done in a private consultation room in the pharmacy and you don’t have to pay.
Afterwards, you’ll be given a written record of the consultation. A copy will be sent to your GP.
Getting rid of unwanted medicines
If your medicine is out of date, unwanted, or some of it is left over after you have stopped taking it, don’t put it in your household bin or flush it down the toilet. Instead, take it to your pharmacy to be disposed of safely.
Help with minor ailments
Pharmacy teams can give advice about a range of common conditions and minor injuries, such as aches and pains, sore throat, coughs, colds, flu, earache, cystitis and skin rashes.
You don’t need an appointment.
If you would like to buy an over-the-counter medicine, the pharmacist can help you choose one.
They can also advise you on whether you need to see a GP.
Here are a few other ways your local pharmacy may be able to help:
The morning-after pill – this can be taken up to 72 hours after sex. The sooner you take it, the more likely it is to stop you getting pregnant. Most pharmacies sell it over the counter after a consultation with the pharmacist. Some may provide it free on the NHS
Pregnancy tests – most pharmacies sell pregnancy test kits, and some have a private area where you can use the kit
Minor ailment scheme
Some pharmacies also run a minor ailment scheme for common health problems like aches and pains, skin conditions and stomach upsets.
If your pharmacy runs a minor ailment scheme, the pharmacist will be able to assess your needs, give you advice, suggest medicines if appropriate, and refer you to a GP if necessary.
When pharmacies provide medicines as part of a minor ailment scheme, you get the medicines on the NHS.
If you normally pay a prescription charge, this charge will apply here. If you’re exempt from prescription charges – if you’re under 16 or over 60, for example, or if you have a prescription prepayment certificate (PPC) – you won’t pay for the medicine.
Help with healthier living
Pharmacy teams can help you look after your own and your family’s health without having to go to the GP all the time.
They offer healthy lifestyle advice that covers things like healthy eating, physical activity, losing weight and stopping smoking, especially if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, are a smoker, or are overweight.
If you have a serious long-term condition, such as diabetes, you’ll still need regular reviews with your GP or specialist.
NHS Health Check
Some pharmacies offer the NHS Health Check for people aged 40-74.
It’s designed to spot early signs of stroke, kidney disease, heart disease, type 2 diabetes or dementia.
Help with stopping smoking
Stop smoking services are also on offer at lots of pharmacies. As well as getting nicotine replacement therapy, such as nicotine gum or patches, or other stop-smoking medicines, on the NHS, you can have regular catch-ups with your pharmacist or a member of their team to help keep you motivated.
Visit the NHS Smokefree website for more advice on how to quit