Word on Health

Word On Asking Your Pharmacist


Our grateful thanks to NHS Choices for the support information below, can we also thank Marie Fitzgerald, Senior Pharmacist withn Lloyds for her contribution.

Community Pharmacists usually work in the high street, local and rural pharmacies.  They are involved in the sale and supply of medicines and give advice about medicines, symptoms and general health matters. They are responsible for dispensing medicines, counsel patients on their proper use, clarify with GPs and other prescribers that dosages are correct, and check that new treatments are compatible with other medicines the patient may be taking.

Detailed Knowledge  As we heard 'on air', pharmacists are highly trained professionals and use their detailed knowledge to ensure that prescribed medicines or over-the-counter medicines are supplied correctly and that patients and members of the public know how to use them and are aware of potential side effects. They also provide advice and treatments for minor ailments. (See below)

Health and well-being  Increasingly, community pharmacists and their teams give advice to members of the public on how to improve their health and well-being. They advise on a variety of health-related issues such as stopping smoking, healthy eating and drinking and sexual health.  This work may involve supplying free literature, signposting people to other members of the healthcare team and supporting promotional health campaigns. As part of this work they may also perform screening tests, like blood pressure or cholesterol measuring or screening tests for chlamydia. 

Safe supply of medicines  Legal and professional requirements are in place to control the safe supply of medicines and other services provided from community pharmacies. Legally, every community pharmacy in Britain must operate under the direct supervision of a pharmacist. Many community pharmacists are also be involved in the management of the business and therefore need to develop skills in managing people, stock control, marketing, finance and accounting.

Community pharmacists’ work may also take them out of the pharmacy to advise residential or nursing homes on the proper handling and administration of medicines. They may visit housebound patients to discuss their medicines or deliver fresh supplies. Some community pharmacists also work sessions in GP practices and advise on appropriate prescribing.

How The Community Pharmacist Can Help:  Every year, millions of us visit our GP with minor health problems that our local pharmacist could resolve.

It is estimated that every year, around 57 million visits to the GP are made for minor ailments such as coughs and colds, mild eczema, and athlete's foot. But by visiting your pharmacy instead, you could save yourself time.

Instead of booking and waiting for a GP appointment, you can visit your local pharmacist any time: just walk in.

All pharmacists can recognise many common health complaints. They can give advice or, where appropriate, medicines that will help to clear up the problem. If your problem is more serious and needs the attention of a GP, your pharmacist will recognise this and advise you to see your GP.

What’s more, many pharmacies are open in the evenings and on the weekends.

If everybody went to a pharmacist with common health problems, more time would be freed for our GPs. This might make it easier to get a convenient appointment with your GP next time you need one.

So if you have a common health problem, a trip to your pharmacy is an option.

Your pharmacist may be able to help with:

  • skin conditions, such as mild acne and mild eczema.
  • coughs and colds, including nasal congestion and sore throat.
  • minor cuts and bruises.
  • constipation and haemorrhoids (piles).
  • hay fever and allergies.
  • aches and pains, such as headaches, earache and backache.
  • indigestion, diarrhoea and threadworms.
  • period pain and thrush.
  • warts and verrucas, mouth ulcers and cold sores.
  • athlete's foot.
  • nappy rash and teething.

Some pharmacies can provide truss fittings, stoma products and incontinence supplies.

Go to your GP, a walk-in centre or accident and emergency for:

  • suturing or wound and dressing care.
  • muscle and joint injuries, including strains and sprains.
  • lacerations, cuts, fractures, severe sprains and strains.
  • infected wounds and foreign bodies.
  • head injuries or loss of consciousness.
  • suspected broken bones or heavy blood loss.
  • persistent chest pain or difficulty breathing.
  • overdose or poisoning.

Minor ailment services  Some pharmacies run a minor ailment service, which means that they can supply medicines for certain specific conditions on the NHS. It's up to local primary care trusts (PCTs) to decide whether pharmacies in your area provide these services.

If your pharmacy runs a minor ailment service for eczema, for example, it means that your pharmacist can supply medicines for this condition, and you'll only pay the standard prescription charge. Or if you're exempt from paying prescription charges, for example because you're over 60, you won't pay for the medicine.


All material on this website is provided for your information only and may not be construed as medical advice or instruction. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this information; instead, readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being.