The NHS is changing dramatically. The time was when you went to your local GP for all your health needs, but these days there aren’t enough GPs and appointments are in high demand.
It’s estimated that around a fifth of people visit GPs with health problems that could be dealt with just as well by a community pharmacist. Everyone visits pharmacies and it makes sense to know just what they can offer you so you can get the most out of them and avoid an unnecessary trip to the GP.
Pharmacies are highly convenient centres of health advice and treatment. Almost everyone is within a short walk or trip to a community pharmacy. Many are open in the evenings and at weekends too, some up to 100 hours a week.
You don’t need an appointment, you can just drop in and ask to speak to the pharmacist for fast, same-day advice. You don’t need to worry about ‘talking over the counter’ any more either, as the vast majority of pharmacies now have a private consultation area where you won’t be overheard.
Pharmacists are highly knowledgeable about medicines and general health problems. They train for a year more than a nurse and only a year less than a doctor. Many of them have extra training to help patients with specific health issues such as asthma or high blood pressure. They also offer a range of free services that you may not be aware of which can help improve your health.
Around 30-50% of people don’t take their medicines as intended. Your pharmacist can give you a refresher course on how to take your medicines and sort out any unpleasant side-effects you may be experiencing. This may be a suggestion to change what you eat or drink with your medicines, the time of day you take your medicine, or even suggest an alternative treatment. New medicines are always becoming available, so there may be something else which could help you. Pharmacists also offer free, in-depth medicines reviews if needed.
Free flu jabs
For the first time, this year you’ll be able to get your flu jab free from your local pharmacy if you choose, instead of your GP. You qualify for a free jab if you are 65 and over, or have a long-term health condition, a weakened immune system (or care for someone who does).
Around 50 million GP appointments take place every year for minor ailments like coughs, colds, skin problems like eczema, stomach upsets and aches and pains. All of these can be dealt with same-day by your pharmacist. Around 1 in 3 pharmacies also offer a ‘minor ailment service’ where, if you qualify for free prescriptions, you will get any treatment you need free of charge too.
Stop smoking services
You’re much more likely to quit smoking if you get professional help. Pharmacists can guide you through the wide variety of patches, gums, sprays and other aids that can help you stop smoking for good. Some will provide them free through the NHS, and even run weekly support clinics so you can meet others also trying to quit.
Pharmacy teams now focus much more on providing advice to help keep you healthy. This includes losing weight, healthy eating, blood pressure and other health checks.
Electronic prescription service
Rather than going to the GP to collect your prescription and take it to the pharmacy yourself, your pharmacist can arrange for your GP to send the prescription electronically to the pharmacy, so your medication is waiting for you when you next visit.
If you regularly get repeat prescriptions for a stable condition, your pharmacist can work in partnership with your GP to help manage your prescriptions. Your pharmacist will look after your repeat slip, which tells them what medicines you need and when. They’ll then agree with you when your next supply is due and order your prescription from your GP. All you have to do is collect your medicines, or have them delivered to you. Your GP will still regularly monitor your condition.
Disposal of unwanted medicines
It’s easy to build up a supply of prescription or over-the-counter medicines that are no longer needed or go out of date. It’s a good idea to have a clear out every now and again, and if you have any unwanted medicines your pharmacist will dispose of them for you. Don’t put them in the bin or flush them down the toilet as they can harm the environment.
Pharmacists and their teams are playing an increasingly important role in the NHS – now’s the time to get to find out what they can do and exactly how they can help you all year round.