Most of us are within a short car ride or walk of a community pharmacy. That means we all have quick and easy access to a pharmacist who's an expert in the safe use of medicines.
Pharmacists have to be registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council before they can practise. The whole pharmacy team is there to help you look after yourself and have a healthier lifestyle.
You don't normally need an appointment; you can just pop in, pharmacists are always happy to have a quick chat.
Pharmacies can also offer anonymity, which some patients may prefer. Don't miss out on this valuable service!
Pharmacists are trained experts in the use of medicines. They can advise you on the safe use of prescription and over-the-counter medicines.
Lots of pharmacies are open until late and at weekends, which is useful if you start feeling unwell at 7pm and the local GPs are all shut.
Are you prescribed a medicine for a long-term condition? Many local pharmacies can help you with your repeat prescriptions.
If you're regularly prescribed medicine, your pharmacist can offer repeat dispensing services, which means fewer trips to the GP just to get another prescription.
You can get a prescription from your GP for up to a year, then you can get your medicine supplied at regular intervals without having to go to your GP every time.
The pharmacist will normally chat to you every time you pick up your medicines to check how you are getting on with them and whether you are experiencing any undue problems or side effects. If so, the pharmacist can talk to your GP about this. Ask your pharmacist about this service.
Reviewing your medicines
Many pharmacies now offer a special discussion of your medicines called a Medicines Use Review (MUR).
If you regularly collect medicines from your pharmacy, the pharmacist may ask you how you've been getting on with them. If you're having problems, they can offer advice or, if necessary, advise you to see your GP.
"The MUR is a detailed chat with your pharmacist about the medicines you take," says Mehta. "You can talk about what you're taking, when you should be taking it, and any side effects you might be concerned about. It's especially useful for people who take a number of medicines."
You can ask for an MUR, or your pharmacist or GP might recommend one. They take place in a private consultation room in the pharmacy and you don't have to pay. Afterwards, you'll receive a written record of the consultation. A copy of it will be sent to your GP.
Collecting old medicines
If your medicine is out of date, unwanted, or some of it is left over after you have stopped taking it, don't throw it away yourself. Instead, take it to your pharmacy to be disposed of safely.
Never throw away medicine in the bin, burn it or flush it down the toilet, as this can harm the environment.
To get the best from your medicines, take them as prescribed. It's OK to ask your doctor about the medicines they are prescribing for you or to tell them you are no longer taking them. Unused medicines are a waste of NHS resources.
NHS Pharmacy First Scotland
NHS Pharmacy First Scotland is a NHS service designed to encourage everyone to visit their community pharmacy as the first port of call for all minor illnesses and specific common clinical conditions.
What is NHS Pharmacy First Scotland?
- NHS Pharmacy First Scotland is an NHS service provided by your local community pharmacy (a pharmacy with a contract to provide NHS prescriptions and services).
- If you have a minor illness, a pharmacy is the first place you should go for advice.
- You do not usually need an appointment and you can go to any pharmacy.
- Your pharmacist can give you advice for a minor illness, and medicine if they think you need it.
Who is the service for?
You can use NHS Pharmacy First Scotland if you are registered with a GP practice in Scotland or you live in Scotland. Speak to the pharmacy team if you need further details.
How does the service work?
- Pharmacists and their teams are experts in medicines and can help with minor health concerns.
- A pharmacist can give you advice and treatment (if you need it) for minor illnesses such as the following.
- Athlete’s foot
- Blocked or runny nose
- Cold sores
- Cystitis (in women)
- Head lice
- Haemorrhoids (piles)
- Hay fever
- Mouth ulcers
- Sore throat
- Period pain
- Pharmacists, like GPs, can only provide certain medicines and products on the NHS. All of these are proven to be effective for treating your condition. If you want a specific medicine or product, you may need to buy it. The pharmacist will give you advice on this.
- If the pharmacist thinks it is better for you to see your GP, they may refer you directly or tell you to make an appointment.
How do I use the service?
- NHS Pharmacy First Scotland is available from all pharmacies in Scotland that dispense NHS prescriptions.
- You can choose which pharmacy to use.
- In most cases, you don’t have to make an appointment.
- When you visit the pharmacy, the pharmacist (or one of their team) will ask you for some information, including your name, date of birth and postcode.
- The pharmacist will:
- ask you about your symptoms;
- give you advice on your condition;
- provide medication (if you need it); and
- refer you to another healthcare professional (for example, your GP) if they think this is necessary.
- They will set up a Patient Medication Record (PMR) to make a note of any advice and treatment they give you.
- You can ask to use the pharmacy’s consultation area or room if you want to speak to the pharmacist in private.
Can I still go to other pharmacies?
- Yes, you can go to any pharmacy to buy medicines, collect prescriptions or use the NHS Pharmacy First Scotland service. You don’t need to always use the same one.
- However, if you always use the same pharmacy, the pharmacist can build a record of your treatment, which may help you to manage your condition more effectively. (This record is not shared with anyone else.)
Improving health and wellbeing
Pharmacy teams are increasingly supporting people to improve their health and wellbeing. They also support people to look after themselves and their families without having to go to a GP all the time.
Pharmacists and their teams offer healthy lifestyle advice that covers topics such as 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.
Some pharmacies are now offering healthy heart clinics, Others are running weight management clinics, offering advice on healthy eating and physical activity.
Those with serious long-term conditions, such as diabetes, will still need regular reviews with their GP or a specialist. The pharmacist can advise on when is best to see a GP.
Stop smoking services are also on offer at many pharmacies as part of local NHS Stop Smoking Services. As well as getting nicotine replacement therapy, such as nicotine gum or patches, or other stop-smoking medicines, on the NHS, you'll meet with your pharmacist to discuss your progress.
Not all pharmacies offer these services, but you can check which services your local pharmacy provides by using the Service search. Alternatively, you can ask your local pharmacist.