The trusted health expert in your community

Pharmacists are healthcare experts who can give you clinical advice, right there and then. What’s more, if symptoms suggest it’s more serious, pharmacists are well placed to help you get the assistance you need.

In the article below, experienced pharmacist Yousaf Ahmad outlines how your community pharmacist can help you and your family’s health and he offers a reassuring insight into the rigorous training this group of healthcare professions are required to undertake.

He said: “As pharmacists we work in many different sectors and settings and the types of patients we see and are trained to care for can vary according to where we work.

“Community pharmacists are the health professionals most accessible to the public and the biggest sector within the pharmacy world. They supply medicines in accordance with a prescription or, when legally permitted, sell them without a prescription.

“In addition to ensuring an accurate supply of appropriate products, their professional activities also cover counselling of patients at the time of dispensing of prescription and non-prescription medications, providing information to other health professionals, patients and the general public, and participation in health-promotion programmes. They maintain links with other health professionals in primary health care.

Pharmacists in your local community can help care for a number of conditions:

  • People with long term medical conditions.
  • Those patients on multiple medications.
  • Care for children, young adults, adults with minor illnesses such as coughs, colds and sore throats. In addition, they can give appropriate advice about a range of other common conditions and minor injuries.
  • Advise on the safe use of prescription and over-the-counter medicines.
  • They can manage repeat prescriptions.
  • They will advise on whether you need to see a GP.
  • Pharmacists offer healthy lifestyle advice.
  • Some offer the NHS Health Check for people aged 40-74, which is designed to spot early signs of stroke, kidney disease, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and dementia.
  • They administer flu jabs (usually for a fee).
  • Pharmacists can help with travel vaccinations.
  • They run specialised clinics in a variety of clinical areas such as contraception, minor injuries, diabetes, asthma and high blood pressure.
  • Pharmacists often directly communicate and engage with care alongside local GP surgeries and doctors.
  • Many offer blood testing and blood glucose testing, in addition conduct medication reviews to those patients that would benefit from it.

There are many benefits of seeing your local pharmacist and pharmacy teams within your communities:

  • They are available outside the normal 9am-5pm workings hours, as most pharmacies in the community are open late and at weekends.
  • You don’t need an appointment or nominated time to see them.
  • They are fully trained healthcare professions.
  • They have direct links with local GPs and can advise you on when you need to see a GP.
  • They have specialised skills in managing minor and some complex conditions, therefore can advise you on how to best care for yourself.
  • They help to free up time for your local GP by seeing some patients that in the past would readily get a GP appointment.

Pharmacists are experts in medicines and how they are used. Most work in hospital pharmacy, community pharmacy (for example high street chemists) and primary care pharmacy settings. 

Pharmacists and their teams are regulated by the General Pharmaceutical Council and are governed by laws and legislation similarly to doctors and nurses. To qualify as a pharmacist takes a minimum of five years and includes the following steps:

  • Successful completion of an accredited Master of Pharmacy degree (MPharm), which is a full-time, four-year course.
  • Successful completion of one year’s pre-registration training, a period of paid employment in a community or hospital pharmacy during which a trainee is required to build up a portfolio of evidence and demonstrate their competence whilst being observed at work.
  • Successful completion of the General Pharmaceutical Council registration exam.
  • Meeting the fitness to practice requirements for registration as a pharmacist.

Over the number of the years that a pharmacist is initially trained, they are educated in a number of key areas, including:

  • Origin and chemistry of drugs.
  • Preparation of medicines.
  • Action and uses of drugs and medicines including physiology, biochemistry, microbiology, pathology and pharmacology.
  • Pharmacy practice, covering laws and standards, managing symptoms, promoting healthy lifestyles and advising on drug therapy and medicines use.

Yousaf adds: “Once pharmacists are trained and successfully pass the regulators assessments, they are equipped to practice in a number of settings, including high street chemists, in a GP practice, in hospitals, in academia, in prisons and in research laboratories. Further training and up-skilling constantly occurs within the field of pharmacy to ensure they practice in a safe and effective manner.

“So, next time you aren’t feeling too well, do consider whether your friendly local pharmacist could help you back to good health. However, as always, if you are facing one of the life threatening conditions on this list from NHS England, dial 999.