What can I expect from my local pharmacy?
All pharmacies in England and Wales offer the following:
- Dispensing: When you give your prescription to a pharmacist, they will use the information on this to get your medicines.
- Repeat dispensing: This service allows you to collect your regular repeat prescription medicines directly from your pharmacy for an agreed period of time. You will need to give your GP permission for them to share information with your local pharmacy. When you need a prescription you then get your medicines directly from your pharmacist without having to go to your GP.
- Disposal of unwanted medicines: If you have any unused medicines at your home, you can take them to your pharmacist who will dispose of them safely.
- Promotion of healthy lifestyles: Did you know your pharmacist can provide you with advice and tips on keeping healthy such as stopping smoking, how to eat healthily and how to get enough exercise. You may also be able to get leaflets and written information to help you make healthier choices. Pharmacies may also take part in local health promotion campaigns such as taking care in the sun.
- Signposting to other services: If your pharmacist thinks you need additional help from other healthcare professionals, social services or voluntary organisations, they can provide you with contact details.
- Support for self-care: Pharmacists, like other healthcare professionals want to make sure that you can look after yourself and your family. Your pharmacy can help you to do this by giving advice on treating minor ailments like coughs and colds or long term conditions such as asthma and diabetes
Some pharmacies may also offer the following additional services:
- Collecting prescriptions from local GP surgeries on behalf of patients – some pharmacies will collect your prescription from your surgery to save you time.
- Delivery of prescriptions to patients – some pharmacies can deliver your prescription medicines to your home.
- Supplementary and independent prescribing – some pharmacists can now prescribe prescription medicines for certain medical conditions
- Minor Ailments service – some pharmacies are able to provide treatments on the NHS for a range of minor ailments such as athlete’s foot or headlice.
- Stop smoking services – Many pharmacies offer stop smoking services and all provide Nicotine Replacement Therapy. Smoking cessation services involve a consultation with the pharmacist who will create a programme to improve your chances of giving up. Sometimes carbon monoxide monitoring will be used to help encourage you to quit.
- Medicines use reviews – Also known as “medicine check-ups” or “medicine MOTs”, this is a free NHS consultation with a pharmacist about a person’s medicines. Consultations are held in a private consultation area so your conversation will not be overheard. The service aims to improve your understanding of your medicines.
- New Medicine Service - If you are prescribed a new medicine for the first time for either an existing or newly-diagnosed health problem, you may be able to get extra help and advice about your medicine from your local pharmacist through a free scheme called The New Medicine Service.
The New Medicine Service (NMS) is a free NHS service for people who have been newly prescribed a medicine to thin the blood or to treat one of these conditions:
- Asthma / Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
- Diabetes (Type 2)
- High blood pressure
Lots of people find they have problems when they start a new medicine. The NMS will help you to sort them out from day one with the help of a pharmacist, so you stay well.
- Blood pressure testing – you can’t tell if your blood pressure is too high – many pharmacists can now check your blood pressure and offer lifestyle advice about how you can stay healthy.
- Cholesterol testing – pharmacists can now offer a simple ‘finger prick’ test that can reveal your cholesterol level. Advice on how to reduce your cholesterol level is on hand too.
- Blood glucose testing – Having too much glucose in your blood may indicate you are at risk of diabetes. Pharmacists can offer a simple finger prick test that will let you know if your blood glucose level is too high, advice is also on hand to keep it low or reduce it too.
- Chlamydia screening – the signs and symptoms of Chlamydia are invisible, but just a simple urine test, carried out in the privacy of your own home can tell you if you may be carrying the infection. Many pharmacies now supply the test kits and results come back from the lab in a matter of days.
- Allergy Screening - One in three of the population experiences an allergic reaction in the UK at some time in their life. Some pharmacies offer an allergy screening service which involves the pharmacist taking a full allergy history and then discussing how best to reduce the symptoms of a person’s allergy. If required, a ‘pin prick’ allergy test can be performed which involves taking a drop of blood from the patient to confirm what may be causing the allergy.
- Flu vaccination – some pharmacies may offer you a free flu vaccine if you are in one of the at risk groups. If you are not in the at risk groups but would still like to have a vaccine, you may also be able to pay from some pharmacies for the vaccine.
Not all pharmacies provide the same range of services. Some of this is down to local NHS priorities. An area which has a higher level of obesity or more smokers is more likely to commission NHS services in pharmacies to tackle these health problems.
What can I expect from my pharmacy in Northern Ireland?
Pharmacies in Northern Ireland offer a range of NHS services including:
- Dispensing your medicines
- Selling medicines
- Disposing of unwanted medicines
- Giving health advice
- Supplying oxygen and equipment to people who need in oxygen at home
Patients suffering from minor ailments, such as colds, sore throats, hayfever, vaginal thrush, headlice, diarrhoea and athlete's foot can now be treated on the NHS at some pharmacies. This new service will take some pressure off GP practices, allowing doctors more time to deal with more serious complaints, while offering patients easy access to treatment through the pharmacy, where they can access expert advice on minor ailments and, where appropriate, free medicines without the need for a prescription. Some pharmacies also offer health checks and help people to stop smoking.