We all know that pharmacists dispense medicines. But they do a lot more than that. Local pharmacies offer a range of health services that you may not be aware of.
For example, pharmacies promote health and wellbeing, and provide access to stopping smoking, sexual health and alcohol support services. These services could save you a trip to your GP or help you make healthy lifestyle changes.
What your pharmacy offers
On the Isle of Man we have excellent provision of community pharmacies. That means most of us have quick and easy access to a pharmacist who's an expert in the safe use of medicines.
Pharmacists have to be registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council before they can practise. They have studied for five years to become experts in medicines and promoting healthy lifestyle choices.
In addition to easy access and confidentiality, pharmacies can also offer anonymity, which some patients may prefer.
'You don't need an appointment; you can just pop in,' says pharmacist Edwin Kinrade, who is the Chair of the Isle of Man Contractors Association. 'Pharmacists are always happy to have a quick chat and can make appropriate referrals on the occasions when they cannot help you directly.'
Help with your medicines
Pharmacists are trained experts in the use of medicines. They can advise you on the safe use of prescription and over-the-counter medicines.
The New Medicine Service
If you are prescribed an anticoagulant (a blood-thinning medicine) or a medicine to treat asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), type 2 diabetes or high blood pressure for the first time, you can get extra help and advice about your medicine from your local pharmacist through a new free scheme called the New Medicine Service (NMS).
If you're regularly prescribed medicines, your pharmacist can offer repeat dispensing services, which means fewer trips to the GP just to get another prescription.
You can get a prescription from your GP for up to a year, then you can get your medicine supplied at regular intervals without having to go to your GP every time.
The pharmacist will normally chat to you every time you pick up your medicines to check how you are getting on with them and whether you are experiencing any undue problems or side effects. If so, the pharmacist can talk to your GP about this. Ask your GP about this service.
Reviewing your medicines
Many pharmacies now offer a special discussion of your medicines called a Medicines Use Review (MUR).
If you regularly collect medicines from your pharmacy, the pharmacist may ask you how you've been getting on with them. If you're having problems, they can offer advice or, if necessary, advise you to see your GP.
'The MUR is a detailed chat with your pharmacist about the medicines you take,' says Ian Hemensley, Hemensley Pharmacy. 'You can talk about what you're taking, when you should be taking it, and any side effects you might be concerned about. It's especially useful for people who take a number of medicines.'
You can ask for an MUR, or your pharmacist or GP might recommend one. They take place in a private consultation room in the pharmacy and you don't have to pay. Afterwards, you'll receive a written record of the consultation. A copy of it will be sent to your GP.
Collecting 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 throw it away yourself. Instead, take it to your pharmacy to be disposed of safely.
Never throw away medicine in the bin, burn it or flush it down the toilet, as this can harm the environment.
To get the best from your medicines, take them as prescribed. It's OK to tell your GP or pharmacist that you no longer need a medication. Unused medicines are a waste of NHS resources, so remember to only order what you need.
When to see your pharmacist
Pharmacies can help with a range of common conditions and minor injuries, such as aches and pains, cystitis, colds and skin rashes.
So if you or your family are experiencing a minor ailment, ‘Think Pharmacy’ for the advice you need to get you on the road to recovery. Your pharmacy can offer advice if you’re worried about your symptoms and alert you to warning signs that may suggest you need to see your GP or seek further medical advice
We could save ourselves and our GPs time if we went to the pharmacy instead. No appointment is needed.
If you have one of these common conditions, your pharmacist can give advice and medicines, if appropriate under the Minor Ailment Scheme.
Minor Ailment Scheme
When pharmacies provide medicines as part of a minor ailment scheme, you get the medicines on the NHS.
That means if you normally pay a prescription charge, this charge will apply here.
If you're exempt from prescription charges – if you're under 16, for example, or if you have a prescription prepayment certificate (PPC) – you won't pay for the medicine.
- Bacterial conjuctivitis
- Vaginal thrush and oral thrush
- Nappy rash
- Inflammatory Skin Disorders
- Exercise-related Injury
If you attend your local pharmacy it is always best to take a list of your current medication with you so they can check it is appropriate to receive medication before supplying it. You can contact your local pharmacy directly to check if you can be treated under the Minor Ailment Scheme: Find a pharmacy near you
Improving health and wellbeing
Pharmacy teams are increasingly supporting people to improve their health and wellbeing. They also support people to look after themselves and their families without having to go to a GP all the time.
Pharmacists and their teams offer healthy lifestyle advice that covers topics such as healthy eating, physical activity, losing weight and stopping smoking, especially if you have diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, are a smoker, or are overweight.
Stop smoking services are also on offer at many pharmacies, so well as getting nicotine replacement therapy, such as nicotine gum or patches, or other stop-smoking medicines, on the NHS, you'll meet with your pharmacist to discuss your progress.
Not all pharmacies offer these services, but you can check which services your local pharmacy provides.