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.
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 don't need an appointment – you can just walk in.
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)
- 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- disposal of unwanted or out-of-date medicines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
If you're regularly prescribed the same medicine, your GP may offer a prescription that can be repeated several times.
You choose which pharmacy you would prefer to collect your prescriptions from and your GP will send your prescription there.
You'll then be able to collect your repeat medicines directly from the pharmacy you have chosen until your doctor needs to review your treatment. This means fewer trips to the GP just to get another prescription.
If you are using this service, you will need to contact your chosen pharmacy a few days before you run out of medicine to ask for a new prescription and find out when it will be ready.
As part of this service, the pharmacist will ask if you're having any problems or side effects with your prescription 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
Learn more about the New Medicine Service.
Medicines Use Review
You can make an appointment with a pharmacist for a more detailed consultation called a Medicines Use Review. This is especially useful if you regularly take several prescription medicines or have a long-term illness.
Other healthcare professionals may also ask for your permission to refer you to a pharmacy of your choice for a Medicines Use Review, for example when you have been discharged from hospital with a change to your medicines.
You can talk about what you're taking, when you should be taking it, and any side effects you might be concerned about.
Tell your pharmacist if you're taking any over-the-counter medicines or any herbal remedies. They can advise you whether these can be taken at the same time or not.
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, don't 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 pharmacy for advice after calling NHS 111
- 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.
Find out about out-of-hours medicines.
Page last reviewed: 29 January 2019
Next review due: 29 January 2022