Pharmacists are experts in medicines who can help you with minor health concerns.
As qualified healthcare professionals, they can offer clinical advice and over-the-counter medicines for a range of minor illnesses, such as coughs, colds, sore throats, tummy trouble and aches and pains.
If symptoms suggest it's something more serious, pharmacists have the right training to make sure you get the help you need. For example they will tell you if you need to see a GP, nurse or other healthcare professional.
All pharmacists train for 5 years in the use of medicines. They are also trained in managing minor illnesses and providing health and wellbeing advice.
Many pharmacies are open until late and at weekends. You do not need an appointment.
Most pharmacies have a private consultation room where you can discuss issues with pharmacy staff without being overheard.
Help with your medicines
Pharmacists can answer your questions on prescription and over-the-counter medicines.
All pharmacies provide the following services:
- dispensing of NHS prescriptions
- access to the repeat prescription service (with agreement from your GP)
- an emergency supply of medicine, subject to the decision of the pharmacist (you may need to pay for an emergency supply)
- non-prescription medicines like paracetamol
- disposal of unwanted or out-of-date medicines
- advice on treating minor health concerns and healthy living
Pharmacy technicians can help with things like:
- inhaler technique
- how to take a medicine safely
- helping you understand the correct dose of a new medicine and how often you need to take it
Some pharmacies will deliver your prescription medicines to you, but you may need to pay for this service. You can use the Find a pharmacy service and check the treatments and services page of the pharmacy profile to see if they offer this service.
Repeat prescriptions can be issued in 2 different ways:
- You order the prescription to be approved by a GP each time you need a refill.
- You order the prescription once and a GP approves a series of refills for you. They are sent to the pharmacy automatically, so you do not need to order them each time. This is called electronic repeat dispensing. The GP surgery or pharmacy will let you know when you need to re-order your prescription.
In both cases, you can:
- choose a specific pharmacy (nominated pharmacy) to collect your prescriptions from each time – call or contact the pharmacy online a few days before you run out of medicine to check your prescription is ready to collect
- decide each time you're given a prescription where to collect it – you'll be given a paper copy with a barcode to take to any pharmacy in England, or the pharmacy can find your prescription using your NHS number
As part of the repeat prescription service, the pharmacist will ask if you're having any problems or side effects with your medicines and, where appropriate, they can discuss this with you and your GP.
Pharmacies can give treatment advice about a range of common conditions and minor injuries, such as:
- aches and pains
- sore throat
- skin rashes
- red eye
If you want to buy an over-the-counter medicine, the pharmacist and their team can help you choose.
Antibiotics will not be available over the counter to treat minor conditions.
New Medicine Service
The New Medicine Service is available at pharmacies to give you extra help and advice if you're just starting on a new medicine for one of the following conditions:
- chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- type 2 diabetes
- high blood pressure
- people who have been given a new blood-thinning medicine
Disposing of old medicines
If your medicine is out of date, unwanted, or some of it is left over after you have stopped taking it, do not put it in your household bin or flush it down the toilet. Instead, take it to your pharmacy to be disposed of safely.
Other pharmacy services
Other services that may be available at your local pharmacy:
- you may be referred to a pharmacist for advice after contacting NHS 111 or a GP
- emergency contraception
- asthma inhaler use and advice
- chlamydia screening and treatment
- stop smoking service
- blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar testing
- substance misuse service, including needle and syringe exchange schemes
- weight management service
- flu vaccination
Many pharmacies offer extended opening hours in the evenings and at weekends. Some are open until midnight or even later, even on public holidays.
How to report side effects
The Yellow Card Scheme allows you to report suspected side effects from a medicine, vaccine or medical device. They also have a Yellow Card app you can use.
It's run by the medicines safety watchdog the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).