As lockdown continues, and we face another few months of life without access to our traditional gym settings, I have been inundated with questions regarding training strategies that can be implemented at home.
Across the UK there are approximately 11,826 community pharmacies, all of whom have a dedicated team on hand to help you with your specific health and wellbeing goals, questions and concerns.
Having owned a number of pharmacies and served my local community for nearly 30 years, the role of the local pharmacy has changed a lot within this time. So, you may be surprised to learn about all the healthcare services we can provide on your doorstep, without the need to book an appointment.
Firstly, it’s important to understand that your local pharmacy team is made up of highly qualified healthcare professionals.
To become a fully qualified pharmacist in the UK, all candidates are required to complete a four-year Master of Pharmacy (MPharm) degree approved by the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC), followed by a one-year pre-registration training course in one or more patient-facing sectors such as community or hospital pharmacy. Successful completion of this can lead to working as either a Primary Care Pharmacist working in a doctor’s surgery, a community pharmacist or a hospital pharmacist.
Ongoing continual professional development is essential throughout a pharmacist’s career to ensure up-to-date clinical knowledge when dispensing medicines and to support face-to-face consultations with customers.
Pharmacists form part of the network in providing primary health care services. We are experts in medicines and can offer clinical advice and over-the-counter medications for a wide range of minor illnesses. We dispense NHS and private prescriptions as directed by your doctor or other healthcare professionals, and can also supply emergency medication where required. We also offer a full range of supplementary healthcare services such as safely disposing of any unwanted or out-of-date medicines as well as helping you with any repeat medications you may receive.
Alongside a registered pharmacist, your local pharmacy team may also have a resident pharmacy technician. Working under the direct supervision of a registered pharmacist, a pharmacy technician helps accuracy check prescriptions dispensed by the dispensing assistants, and they provide professional care and advice to patients about their health and medications. Like pharmacists, pharmacy technicians must also be registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) and they have to keep up to date with their continual professional development. You can search the GPhC Register to find out more about your local pharmacist or pharmacy technician.
The team may also include several pharmacy assistants. They are on hand to advise customers about non-prescription items, make up orders, take payment and replenish the stock in the pharmacy. Their attention to detail is essential, especially when it comes to inventories within the pharmacy and ensuring you receive excellent customer service. Many pharmacy assistants act as “Health Champions” promoting healthy lifestyles by inspiring others to take a more active role in their health. They can signpost people to services and support others to make positive behavioural changes.
Every retail pharmacy business, such as the one on your local high street, must, by law, appoint a Responsible Pharmacist. As well as being a registered pharmacist, the Responsible Pharmacist is ‘in charge’ of that registered pharmacy. Their role is to ensure the secure, safe and effective running of the pharmacy when it is operational, and you will find their details on a notice that must be displayed within the pharmacy itself.
Pharmacists are qualified to provide advice on a wide range of common ailments and conditions, and accessing our advice is free. We pride ourselves on our accessibility and most pharmacies now offer a confidential consultation room for customers, in which we can discuss your specific needs and administer NHS vaccines.
Pharmacy services include:
For those who don’t pay for their prescriptions, you may be eligible to benefit from this scheme and receive free advice and treatments for common illnesses without the need to see your GP.
A selected number of pharmacies can help you access this scheme covering common minor ailments such as:
Although schemes vary depending on location, the NHS Minor Ailment Scheme is available for adults and children who are registered with a GP taking part in this service. With no need to make an appointment, this service is both flexible and convenient, with added peace of mind that your pharmacist can refer you to a GP if necessary.
Your local pharmacy can help with both Covid-19 vaccinations as well as Flu vaccinations, keeping you well and protected. Flexibility is key when it comes to keeping on top of your vaccination schedule. Most pharmacies include evening and weekend opening times.
We also offer chargeable travel vaccinations and Covid-19 testing, including PCR and Antigen Fit to Fly Tests which can offer extra peace of mind.
If you are diagnosed with a long-term condition, it may be that you are prescribed new medicines to help manage your condition. Patients receiving new medications can get extra help from their local pharmacist, where we support you over several weeks to ensure that you are both taking the medication safely and to its best effects.
This service is offered to a wide range of patients including those with:
When taking a new medication, you can utilise the clinical expertise of your pharmacist to ask any questions you may have. We may then arrange a follow-up appointment, usually two weeks later, to discuss any issues you may be experiencing. These consultations can be held in a private consultation room or remotely via video link or telephone to ensure continued patient confidentially.
This is a further free service your pharmacy team provide in supporting you with your health and wellbeing.
This is a nationwide service where pharmacists can also help and support you with a wide range of common ailments and issue repeat prescriptions acting as the first port of call when accessing healthcare. Your local pharmacy may be able to issue a few days' supplies of medications as an emergency supply such as cases where you may have lost medication or ordered this from your doctor's surgery and it isn't ready for collection; or if you have forgotten to place an order.
It should be understood that this type of service does not replace the usual process of ordering medications directly from your GP. We can also help in situations where patients are referred into the service from doctors’ surgeries after completing a quick precise questionnaire on their health problems.
There is a local service called ‘Pharmacy First’, an initiative aimed at reducing the pressure on GP surgeries and acute services, whilst providing you with access to flexible and convenient services (currently only available at Liverpool pharmacies or from pharmacists who are qualified as a Pharmacist Independent Prescriber, a GPhC-accredited qualification).
For example, your local pharmacist can help you with a range of prescription medicines that can treat:
As part of our commitment to accessible healthcare, your local pharmacy can help with emergency hormonal contraception, also known as the ‘morning after pill’, which can be taken to help prevent pregnancy. This service can be commissioned by the local health authority so that the patient can obtain the medicine free of charge, or alternatively, it can be purchased privately after a confidential consultation with the pharmacist. This service is offered as a walk-in option, so no appointment is necessary.
Offering confidential consultations means we can support your individual needs with compassion and confidentiality.
Did you know that in the UK there are around five million adults who have high blood pressure without even knowing it? That equates to one in nine of us.
Your local pharmacy can help by offering free blood pressure checks to those over 40 years old for free. Blood pressure checks usually comprise of a confidential consultation with a trained member of the pharmacy team. In some instances, you may be offered to take home a blood pressure monitor that measures your blood pressure over 24 hours and, depending on your reading, we may refer you to your GP.
The British Heart Foundation estimates that high blood pressure causes over 50% of heart attacks and strokes, so by gaining valuable information, your local pharmacy can help support your ongoing heart health.
More recently some pharmacies offer blood testing services that cover a wide range of checks. These work in conjunction with some private GP services; and provide a swift consultation, referral or prescription pathway for clients.
Your local pharmacy team can also help with medical devices, for example, such as inhalers, providing support with techniques and fundamentally advocating healthy living. We provide guidance and advice on areas such as:
Working in the heart of each community, your local pharmacy team can provide expert care, advice and ongoing support for you and your family at all stages of life.
Imagine playing a complex board game where everyone is playing by their own rules, except you don’t know what the rules are or how to invent your own. That’s what life can feel like when we haven’t learnt the skill of healthy personal boundaries.
I sincerely believe that everyone should have the opportunity of leading happy and fulfilled lives, feeling confident and secure to enjoy their life to the full.
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