Trade for prosperity

Pharmacies are offering an increasing number of clinical services. Read on to find out which services are available for where you live

ENGLAND

Pharmacies in England offer a range of core ‘essential’ services plus optional ‘advanced’ and locally commissioned services. That’s why it’s always worth asking at your local pharmacy for a rundown of the particular services they provide. 

The Discharge Medicines Service is a recent addition to the list of ‘essential’ services offered by English pharmacies. You may be referred to the scheme by your NHS Trust if you’ve been a patient in hospital and you’ve been discharged with new medicines, and the Trust believes you will benefit from extra help and guidance with your drugs. 

The service aims to make sure that patients understand their new medication and how to use it, and also to better communicate changes to the medication with the GP and pharmacist. The process includes a confidential discussion with the pharmacist about your medication to ensure you are clear about how the drugs should be taken and used. 

This discussion may also include your carer if  you have one, and it could take place in person in the pharmacy, or via telephone or video consultation if you are housebound. 

The New Medicine Service is one of the ‘advanced’ services which many English pharmacies offer. This is a free NHS scheme that was originally for anyone suffering with asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), Type 2 diabetes, hypertension (high blood pressure), or anyone who has been prescribed a new blood-thinning medicine.

That list was extended last year to include: Acute coronary syndrome, atrial fibrillation, coronary heart disease, epilepsy, glaucoma, gout, heart failure, hypercholesterolaemia, osteoporosis,, Parkinson’s Disease, stroke/transient ischemic attack, urinary incontinence and retention.

If you have any of these conditions, you can get extra advice from the pharmacy team when you start taking a new drug to manage your symptoms. New medication can be quite confusing so the pharmacist will offer support over several weeks to check you’re taking the drug correctly. 

If there’s an issue the pharmacist cannot deal with, you may be referred back to your GP. All English pharmacies promote and support healthy lifestyles to improve your health and wellbeing. For example, the team at your local pharmacy can help if you want to lose weight; they can measure your BMI, blood pressure and other risk factors, and might also be able to refer you to a weight management programme. In addition, they can support you to stop smoking through nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) and can advise which product is best for you, depending on your general health.

Every winter, pharmacies provide a free flu vaccination service for the most vulnerable, including those with long-term health conditions and pregnant women. Many pharmacies also offer an alcohol screening service for those who are dependent on alcohol, providing one-to-one support and advice, and referring them to specialist services if required. Other services that may be available in English pharmacies include help and advice about using asthma inhalers; customisation and fitting of stoma appliances; emergency contraception; screening and treatment for chlamydia; and a needle and syringe exchange for substance users, as well as Hepatitis C testing.

Northern Ireland

Community pharmacies in Northern Ireland offer a range of core services such as dispensing medicines prescribed by your doctor; providing repeat prescriptions for medicines and medical devices (including incontinence supplies, stoma products and trusses); selling over-the-counter medication; and giving medical advice so that you can care for yourself and your family. 

They can also give you more information about extra support available or refer you to another health service such as your GP, the minor injuries unit or the emergency department, and dispose of unwanted or out-of-date medication and sharps. Your pharmacy may offer various additional services such as the Minor Ailments Service. 

Under this scheme, common health problems can be treated by the pharmacist instead of going to your GP. The list of ailments are acne vulgaris, athlete’s foot, acute diarrhoea, head lice, haemorrhoids, threadworms, vaginal thrush, groin area infections, oral thrush, ear wax, mouth ulcers, scabies, and verrucae. 

If you qualify for the Minor Ailments Service, treatment is completely free. And getting treated at the pharmacy means your GP can concentrate on patients with more complex medical requirements. You will be treated in a consultation room by a qualified pharmacist and you don’t even need an appointment. 

Management of common ailments is being further managed through community pharmacies with the introduction of the Pharmacy First Service. This is designed to encourage you to go your local pharmacy before thinking about making an appointment with your GP. Every community pharmacy has a qualified pharmacist who can give medical advice and treatment. For example, when you’re bothered by a sore throat or cold, there’s no need to visit your GP to get it sorted. Your local pharmacist can offer you free confidential advice and treatment – without the need for a long wait at your GP’s surgery. 

Through the Living Well scheme, your community pharmacy offers seasonal advice to support your overall health and wellbeing.

If you want to quit smoking, you may qualify for the Stop Smoking Service. Under the scheme, you will receive nicotine replacement therapy products weekly for up to 12 weeks and will be offered behaviour support.

Other routine services include monitoring of your diabetes or blood pressure if you take associated medication; seasonal flu vaccination and other vaccination services;  emergency contraception and pregnancy testing; help with skin problems and allergies; and offering vitamins and supplements to improve your health. Some pharmacies will also offer a Harm Reduction Service that includes a needle and syringe exchange and an opioid substitution treatment service.

Scotland

In Scotland, community pharmacies are independent contractors of NHS Scotland. An increasingly popular pharmacy service is NHS Pharmacy First Scotland. Under the service, if you have a minor illness, you should visit your local pharmacy first. A qualified pharmacist or a member of the community pharmacy team will assess you, offer advice and provide treatment if it’s needed.

There is a long list of common ailments covered under the NHS Pharmacy First Scotland service. They include skin conditions such as acne and eczema; allergies, including hay fever; symptoms of the common cold such as a blocked or runny nose, cough or sore throat; constipation, diarrhoea, indigestion and haemorrhoids (piles); cold sores and mouth ulcers; infections like athlete’s foot, impetigo, threadworms, thrush, cystitis in women and urinary tract infections (UTIs); backache, earache, headache, period pain and general pain; head lice; and verrucae and warts. 

If your condition is more serious or requires further investigation, the pharmacist may need to refer you to another healthcare professional such as your GP, dentist, optometrist or another NHS service. 

If you have a long-term health condition and receive regular prescriptions to treat it, you can take advantage of the Medicines, Care and Review service. All Scottish community pharmacies offer the service and you just need to register with one of them to access it. 

Under the service, your GP will still provide medical care for you, and your medicines will be managed by the pharmacy. The pharmacist will review your medication to see how you use them and whether you have any issues or side-effects with them.

The pharmacist may decide that a care plan will be appropriate. This will include information about what you and the pharmacist have agreed needs to be done to solve any issues you are having with your medicines.

In addition, the pharmacist may share information about your medicines with your doctor. The pharmacist will review your care plan regularly.

It may also be possible for you to get serial prescriptions through the  pharmacy lasting up to 56 weeks but this is only decided in consultation with the pharmacist and your doctor. 

If you are housebound, some Scottish community pharmacies can offer a video consultation if required using the NHS NearMe system, instead of going to or phoning the pharmacy.

If you have coeliac disease or dermatitis herpetiformis and diagnosed as needing gluten free food, you can order through the pharmacy as part of your prescription. Your pharmacy can with a consultation also provide, if suitable, the emergency contraceptive pill and a supply of interim contraception until you see a GP or contraception clinic. In addition, it can help with advice and nicotine replacement therapy products if you want to stop smoking.

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