Your local pharmacy, or chemist, isn’t just the place where you pick up your prescribed medicines.
They can also give health advice. Pharmacists are qualified health professionals and are the right people to see if you need advice or over-the-counter medicines.
They are trained in dealing with many illnesses, they can check your symptoms and recommend the best treatment, or just reassure you – for instance when a minor illness will get better on its own with a few days’ rest.
Some of the problems they can help with are: coughs, colds, sore throats, earache, toothache and emergency contraception (the morning-after pill). They can also tell you when you need to see a doctor or nurse and you can get advice on prescription medicines.
Many of us live near a pharmacy and you don’t need an appointment to see them. They are often open in the evenings and at weekends, so they offer fast, convenient support.
Most of them also have a private consultation room, so you can have a conversation where other people can’t hear you. If you need it, just ask.
Sometimes GP practices will directly refer patients to their community pharmacist for appropriate health conditions, through the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service. Once a patient has been referred, the pharmacist contacts them for a face to face, phone or video consultation, and the outcome of this is reported back to the GP practice so that they can see exactly what has been recommended, any treatment given and it all goes on the patient’s record. If for some reason the patient needs more support, the GP practice picks it back up and arranges for the patient to be seen by another member of the practice team. This saves the patient having to make multiple calls for support and frees up time for GPs to see patients with the most complex needs.
To find your nearest local pharmacy, go to the NHS “Find services” directory. Alternatively, use NHS 111.