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Your local community pharmacist is a trained expert in medicines and how they work. They can supply the medicines your doctor has prescribed and provide you with useful information about how to get the most out of them.
They can supply other medicines and give you advice about minor illnesses and medical problems. They can also help you to decide whether or not you need to see your doctor for further help.
What can my pharmacist do for me?
Your pharmacist can supply you with the medicines you have been prescribed by your doctor and advise you on how to use them safely and effectively. They will check that your medicines (and any herbal remedies you may be taking) will not interact with each other.
They can provide repeat prescription services. This is a service where, in agreement with your doctor, you can collect new supplies of your medicines without you needing to go to your doctor for a fresh prescription each time. Such repeat prescriptions can last for up to one year. Some pharmacists also offer home delivery if you cannot leave your home.
Pharmacists are also able to help with a range of minor illnesses and problems – from supplying self-care solutions for coughs, flu, pain and skin problems to giving treatments for diarrhoea, cuts, sprains and allergies (such as hayfever). They may be able to offer a range of support and help on making healthy lifestyle changes, such as lowering your cholesterol or stopping smoking.
What other services can my pharmacist provide?
Some pharmacists now offer free blood pressure monitoring, cholesterol level testing service or stop smoking clinics. To ensure your privacy, a quiet, private area will have been specially created in the pharmacy.
Another useful service that many pharmacists offer is a Medicines Use Review. This is a yearly meeting with your pharmacist to look at all the medicines you are taking (prescription, over-the-counter and complementary). It also allows you to discuss any medical or practical problems you are having with your medicines (such as side-effects or not being able to get to the surgery for repeat prescriptions).
At the end of a Medicines Use Review meeting your pharmacist will help you to find solutions to any problems you are having. He will then suggest these changes to your GP. A record of the meeting is given to you (another is kept at the pharmacy) and a summary is sent to your doctor.
Questions to ask your pharmacist
Pharmacists are experts in medicines and how they work. They are there to help and allay your concerns, and they should be happy to answer any questions you may have about your medicines. The following questions may be helpful to ask:
- Is it safe for me to take this medicine at the same time as the other medicines I am taking (including herbal, complementary and non-prescription ones)?
- Can I take this medicine with food?
- What side-effects I should look out for?
- Can I drink alcohol while taking this medicine?
- Can I drive while using this medicine?
- I have problems with opening my medicines or remembering to take them, do you have anything that can help?