What can your community pharmacy do for you?
Community pharmacies can be found in a variety of locations - shopping centres, supermarkets, GP surgeries and high streets. There will be a local pharmacy near to where you live, work or shop - and they offer a variety of services:
Your pharmacist uses his or her expert knowledge to ensure that prescribed and over the counter medicines are supplied correctly, that customers know how to use them and what side effects they might notice. They are here to help people get the most out of their medicines, and they are always available to discuss any problems patients might be having.
Pharmacists are not just trusted experts in medicines, however: they offer health advice and support without an appointment. Pharmacy staff help millions of people every year decide whether they need to see their GP or not, and are the first port of call for treatment for common ailments.
The team supporting your pharmacist (which includes medicines counter assistants, dispensers and checking technicians) are all trained to national standards to offer advice to customers and dispense medicines safely.
Most community pharmacies have a consultation room where the pharmacist can carry out one to one conversations. You will use the room if you come in to discuss your medicines, to ask for sexual health treatments or with a minor ailment. This allows your needs to be met discreetly, while the pharmacy staff are also bound by strict rules on privacy.
All pharmacies offer essential NHS services such as dispensing medicines, repeat dispensing, waste medicine disposal, promoting healthy lifestyles and support for self-care.
There are more advanced services on offer too - medicines checks to make sure you're using your new or regular medications effectively, wellbeing support (such as stop smoking and emergency contraception services), and locally targeted services to tackle issues such as sexual health and the provision of care home 'monitored dosage' systems.
Many pharmacies are open longer hours than GP surgeries, allowing prompt access to professional services.
Support Your Local Pharmacy
Your local pharmacy is more than just a place to get medicines. It provides a range of NHS services and ensures people can get face-to-face, healthcare professional advice without an appointment.
There are around 14,000 community pharmacies across the UK, so for most of us, there’s one very close by. In fact, 96% of people can get to a pharmacy within 20 minutes by walking or using public transport. Community pharmacists provide rapid access, without appointment, to a healthcare professional and offer a range of clinical and public health services.
What’s more, pharmacies are part of the fabric of local communities. They provide local employment and are a health and social care asset close to where people live, work and shop.
The Department of Health (DH) has indicated it believes that there are up to 3000 too many pharmacies in England. At the same time, they have proposed a series of policy measures which would divert investment from local pharmacies to other care settings or to online suppliers of medicines. Beyond this, there is little detail about the Government’s plans. Nevertheless, it is easy to see that the current direction of policy, if not challenged, will lead to a serious fracturing of the pharmacy network in England.
Ministers and officials should pause and reflect, and not rush to implement policies that may have unintended and irreversible consequences for local pharmacies and the people they serve. There should be an opportunity for more patient input and also for expert analysis of how the plans could affect patient care. In particular, the Government should consider whether the proposals are safe, maintain consumer choice, safeguard the most vulnerable patients, and maximise pharmaceutical care in the most deprived communities.
What can I do about it?
You can help in a number of ways, including by writing to your local MP. See http://supportyourlocalpharmacy.org/ for ideas and more information.
Services you will find in Gloucestershire pharmacies:
One to one support for patients with newly prescribed medicines (for some long-term conditions).
Confidential one to one discussions between the pharmacist and patient on medicines they use regularly.
Some pharmacies hold an agreed list of special medicines for supply on prescription at any time of the day or night.
Pharmacies in Gloucestershire take it in turns to provide guaranteed access to prescription medicines and advice at set times during the weekend and bank holidays. They are listed in the local press.
Patients on eg. insulin can return used needles in yellow sharp bins to most pharmacies for safe disposal.
Certain pharmacies can supply Emergency Hormonal Contraception (the morning after pill), Chlamydia testing and treatment, and condoms under the C-card scheme.
* Public Health service provided free to under 25s
Patients are asked whether all medicine items are required before dispensing to avoid waste.
Pharmacists and trained staff dispense Nicotine Replacement Therapies or provide a supported 12 week quit programme. NHS exemptions apply.
To reduce the burden on A&E and Out of Hours services, patients needing urgent supplies of regular medicines can be supplied free under NHS exemptions.
This allows access to medicines under the advice of the pharmacist, covering coughs, acute pain, constipation, head lice and many other ailments. NHS exemptions apply.
Many pharmacies provide a range of private healthcare services, such as travel vaccinations, weight management, erectile dysfunction treatment and seasonal flu vaccinations. They will often offer a free prescription collection service and delivery of medicines, as well as prescription reordering on your behalf.
Speak to your local pharmacy about the services they provide.
Healthy Living Pharmacies
If your local pharmacy is a Healthy Living Pharmacy (HLP), you will notice that they are proactive about improving the health and wellbeing of their customers. HLPs are required to deliver a wide range of services based on the needs of their local community, and commit to promoting a healthy living ethos in their store. This means that in a Healthy Living Pharmacy you will not just see the widest range of NHS services on offer - you are likely to be asked if you smoke, and whether you would like to quit; of you may notice a range of Public Health campaigns being enthusiastically run from a dedicated health information area in the pharmacy.
Saving the NHS money
Community pharmacy plays a valuable role in reducing waste. Through the Not Dispensed scheme, through Medicines Use Reviews, and through regular contact with your GP, they are able to reduce the stockpiling of unused medication and provide a central place for the collection of waste medicines. By advising on self-care and signposting their customers to health information, pharmacies reduce the workload of overstretched GPs and A&E.
Community pharmacies contributed £3 billion to the NHS, public sector and wider society in England in 2015 through just 12 services, according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) study. This means that community pharmacies deliver substantially more in benefits than they receive in compensation, providing excellent value to the Department of Health.
The information on this page has been prepared by Gloucestershire LPC - who represent contractors locally and nationally to create an environment for community pharmacy to flourish.
Find a pharmacy
To find your nearest pharmacy, click here (NHS Choices) - or visit the Your Circle website for more details about pharmacies in your area.