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It is vital that people with mental health problems receive the care and treatment they are entitled to, and pharmacies are in a great position to provide support. 

Conveniently located on high streets and in the heart of communities, they are particularly important in the early detection of mental health and wellbeing problems.

Through supported housing, community wellbeing support and addiction services, Inspire have supported more than 5,200 people in communities across Ireland

The relative informality of pharmacies means it can be a good place to open up a conversation about mental health. There are also consultation rooms where you can discuss matters without being overheard. 

For some isolated people, a pharmacist might be the only person they talk to all week. By meeting the same people regularly in the pharmacy, pharmacy teams often spot the early signs of mental illness such as depression or dementia and signpost people to other forms of support in the area. 

As experts in medicines and how they are used, pharmacists can help people get the best outcomes from their drugs, reduce adverse reactions and minimise unplanned admissions to hospital. 

They can be a vital source of advice for people taking medication for mental illness for the first time, and when people come off medication. 

For those people using medicines to manage their mental health, non-adherence can be a challenge, especially for those with severe symptoms. Poor adherence can result in worse outcomes and can lead to the need for further intervention or even hospital admission. The expert medicines skills of pharmacists mean they are best placed to provide effective support.

Pharmacies can also help maintain mental health in terms of looking after patients’ general health and wellbeing, for example by providing support to stop smoking.

Many pharmacy teams are trained dementia-friendly carers, and those pharmacists work together in a co-ordinated way. They do not diagnose but are very good at spotting changes in people’s healthcare.

Careful monitoring of requests for over-the-counter medicines (e.g. anti-anxiety or sedative products, analgesics and laxatives) and signs and symptoms identified during consultations can suggest a decline in a person’s mental health or wellbeing.



Mind is a mental health charity in England and Wales. Founded in 1946 as the National Association for Mental Health, it raises public awareness and understanding of mental health issues and offers information and advice to anyone with a mental health problem as well as lobbying government, nationally and locally, to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding. 

The charity campaigns on a range of issues that could affect anybody with a mental health problem such as health services, legislation, protection of legal rights and employment. 

There is an Infoline, on 0300 123 3393, which offers help for the price of a local call. The Legal Line, on 0300 466 6463, has information on mental health related law for the public, service users, family members/carers, mental health professionals and mental health advocates. Both lines are confidential services.

Inspire Wellbeing Northern Ireland

Inspire is an all-island charity and social enterprise working together with people living with mental ill health, intellectual disability, autism and addictions across Ireland, to ensure they live with dignity and realise their full potential. 

Their person-centred, whole-society approach means they believe in a culture of compassion, creating a society free from stigma that focuses on people and their abilities. 

Inspire delivers a full range of support and therapeutic services. Through supported housing, community  wellbeing support and addiction services, Inspire have supported more than 5,200 people in communities across Ireland. The professional services team provides all-island employee and student support to more than 350 organisations, resulting in 49,000-plus counselling sessions delivered. 

For mental health support or signposting information for you or someone you know you can contact Inspire on 0808 189 0036. This line is available Monday to Friday 10am-1pm. 

Mind raises public awareness and understanding of mental health issues and offers information and advice to anyone with a mental health problem as well as lobbying government, nationally and locally, to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding

Scottish Association FOR MENTAL HEALTH

SAMH currently operates more than 60 services in communities across Scotland providing mental health social care support, addictions and employment services, among others. These services together with national programme work in See Me, Respect Me, suicide prevention, physical activity and sport; and inform SAMH’s policy and campaign work to influence positive social change. 

The SAMH Information Service team can connect callers with local mental health support and information. It operates from 9am-6pm Monday to Friday (except bank holidays). Email or call 0344 800 0550.

SAMH currently operates more than 60 services in communities across Scotland providing mental health social care support, addictions and employment services, among others

Called PANORAMIC, it is being run by researchers at the University of Oxford and funded by the National Institute for Health Research. It aims to find antiviral treatments that reduce hospital admission and speed up recovery for people with COVID-19 who are at home and in the early stages of infection.

PANORAMIC will involve pharmacies, GP practices, NHS 111, Test and Trace, care homes and other NHS and social care service providers. They will identify potential participants, invite them to take part and support their involvement. . People can participate from home and no face-to-face visits are required.

Follow-up will be by answering questions each day online and/or telephone calls with the study team, who will offer support throughout.

Participants will need to have had a positive COVID-19 test result and be experiencing COVID-19 symptoms which started within the last five days. All participants should have recorded a positive PCR test within the past seven days.

They also need to be aged 50 years and over, or 18 years and over with an underlying health condition, such as asthma.

Participants will receive either an anti-viral treatment plus the current standard care, or the current standard of care without the new antiviral treatment. 

Each group will contain about 5,300 people – so up to 10,600 volunteers in all will be needed for testing.

Volunteers can also sign up independently at the PANORAMIC website at

You might be surprised at the range of support available on your doorstep in local pharmacies – from flu vaccinations and help to quit smoking, to sexual health services, NHS medicines consultations and healthy living advice. Community pharmacy is about people, (people like you), not just pills!

Pharmacies treat minor illnesses, help people manage long-term medical conditions, supply medicines and provide urgent care. 

They absorb demand that would otherwise fall onto other parts of the healthcare system, including GPs and A&E. 

There is just so much that your local pharmacies provide. Please make the most of the services on offer. Support your local pharmacy so that they can stay open to support you and the generations to come.

Here are some of the things that make your local pharmacies special: 

Pharmacies provide a range of NHS services, and take pressure off GPs and hospitals. 

Pharmacies are a convenient setting to get help for coughs and sneezes and all manner of other health concerns which don’t necessarily require a GP or hospital appointment. 

Your local pharmacy is one of the few places in the health service where you can simply walk in off the street and get treatment and healthcare professional advice without an appointment. 

The concentration of community pharmacies is higher in deprived areas, meaning that pharmacy-based services can reduce health inequalities between affluent and less well-off areas. 

Conversations with your local pharmacist can help you get the best use from your medicines and minimise your risk of harm. Many people underestimate the risks of taking medicines inappropriately. At least 6% of emergency re-admissions to hospital are caused by avoidable adverse reactions to medicines. 

A study by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) showed that just 12 community pharmacy services (not including the core dispensing service) contribute £3 billion of value a year to the NHS and directly to patients. 

Pharmacies perform a vital function in society which is as much about community as it is about healthcare. They should never be taken for granted – use them or lose them.

Like GPs, community pharmacists are part of the NHS family. The traditional role of the community pharmacist as the healthcare professional who dispenses prescriptions written by doctors has changed. Community pharmacists provide clinical services in addition to the traditional dispensing role to allow better  integration and team working with the rest of the NHS.

Your local pharmacy is a key part of the NHS team, aiming to provide seamless NHS care for patients. They: 

 Talk frequently to local GPs

 In some parts of the UK, pharmacists can view shared patient records to maximise patient safety

Refer people to GPs or hospitals if they see danger signs

Your local pharmacy is the NHS on the high street, providing a range of NHS services and support, including urgent care. 

Local doctors may refer you to the pharmacy for advice and treatment for minor ailments such as coughs, colds and tummy aches. In turn, the pharmacist will refer you for a GP or hospital appointment if something needs checking out further. 

The best patient care is usually based on partnership between healthcare professionals, who may work in different settings and have different skill sets, but who come together to provide seamless care for the individual. 

The NHS says it wants to make greater use of community pharmacists’ skills and opportunities to engage patients. So please make the most of your local community pharmacy: proudly part of the NHS family.

Community pharmacists are highly qualified health care professionals who can provide clinical advice, conveniently, as part of your integrated local NHS team. Every pharmacist trains for five years in the use of medicines, studying at university for four years and then spending a year ‘in practice’ before qualifying. 

They are experts in managing minor illnesses and providing health and wellbeing advice. As regulated health care professionals, pharmacists must continue to develop their professional skills throughout their career. 

On a day-to-day basis, community pharmacists have many duties that include: clinical scrutiny of prescriptions; overseeing safe dispensing; giving advice about medicines and treatments to patients; providing public health information to customers; pointing customers to other health and social care services, self-care organisations or information; assessment and treatment of minor ailments; professional oversight of the sale of over-the-counter medicines; and liaison with other healthcare professionals.

Support team 

Pharmacists are supported by a team of trained staff working under their direct supervision. They include: 

Pharmacy technicians – skilled members of the pharmacy team who prepare, dispense, supply and issue a wide range of medicines to patients. 

Accredited checking technicians (ACT) – staff who have received training to undertake accuracy checks of dispensed medicines. The pharmacist will carry out a clinical check of the prescription during the dispensing process but working with an ACT means the pharmacist usually does not need to undertake the final accuracy check. 

Dispensing assistants – they support the pharmacist in dispensing prescriptions and the management of dispensary stock. 

Medicines counter assistants – they provide a wide range of functions to support the rest of the team. They undertake the prescription reception process and provide basic healthy lifestyle support among other duties. 

Customers can ask to talk to a Healthy Living Champion. These are members of the pharmacy team who are specially trained to provide health and wellbeing advice. Their training helps them communicate effectively and to understand the impact of behaviour change such as exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet. Healthy Living Champions can also guide customers to other community services that will help them to adopt healthier lifestyles.

The Responsible Pharmacist

The owner of the pharmacy must appoint a Responsible Pharmacist whose role is to secure the safe and effective running of the registered pharmacy when it is operational. Displayed at the pharmacy is a notice that gives the details of the Responsible Pharmacist.

It’s good to talk (with your pharmacy team)

Here are tips about how to communicate effectively with your pharmacy team – and to be extra safe with your medicines: 

Feel free to ask your pharmacist anything at all about your medicines, health and wellbeing – if it’s important to you, it’ll be important to them. To be safer, it is better to reveal too much information than not enough, so bring up issues even if your doctor or pharmacist hasn’t asked about them. 

Check with your doctor or pharmacist anything that is unclear about the explanations or advice they have given you; one way is to repeat what you think the pharmacist means in your own words and ask “Is this correct”? If you are still uncertain about anything when you get home, call to talk to the pharmacist or visit the pharmacy again.

Please say if you think the medicines you have been supplied with, or the advice and instructions that have come with them, are not right for you. The doctor or pharmacist will not be offended and should welcome the opportunity to reassure you, clarify information or discuss alternatives. 

If you are in the pharmacy to be treated for a minor ailment, be clear about your symptoms – what exactly are they, how long have you had them, do they affect your daily activities? Answer any questions asked by pharmacy staff accurately and fully so that the pharmacist can be sure that the medicine is safe for you and that your symptoms don’t indicate a serious underlying health problem.

A career in pharmacy? 

Working in pharmacy is by no means easy, but there can be huge personal satisfaction from working in a community pharmacy. Patients often build relationships with their pharmacy teams, valuing and trusting the advice and support given. Community pharmacists get to know whole families and support them through good and bad times. This human dimension is one reason why a career in the community pharmacy sector can be so fulfilling. 

A community pharmacist keeps people well, assesses their conditions and helps them get the best use of their medicines. It is a very responsible job and pharmacists tend to be respected members of their communities. Some pharmacists own their own businesses and enjoy the challenges of managing staff, stock and premises.

Interested in a career in pharmacy? Find out more details at



We’ve all done it – while looking for the nearest pharmacy in the high street, we squint into the distance along a parade of shop fronts until we see the familiar green cross.

But have you ever thought just why the green cross has become the universally accepted symbol of pharmacies? 

You have to go back some nine hundred years when a green Greek Cross emblem was used by the Hospitallers of St. Lazarus – the patron saint of lepers. The members of the Order gave aid to those suffering from leprosy. 

In continental Europe the green cross was originally coloured red on a white background and was chosen because of its association with the humanitarian charity the Red Cross that was founded in the 1860s.

Many pharmaceutical manufacturers in mainland Europe used the red or white cross on their product packaging and some pharmacies put red crosses outside their premises.

Eventually this practice was discontinued because of confusion with the charity, and the cross became green.

But why green? The colour green has long been seen as a symbol of nature and life. One theory is that many medicines are plant based, another is that because, in the 18th and 19th centuries, military pharmacists wore green armbands. It has also been suggested that looking at the colour green has a calming effect.

Whatever the reason, the green cross became internationally recognised. Today, the green cross is most commonly associated with health care, in particular, first aid.

In Germany, the Deutsches Grunes Kreuz e.V. (German Green Cross) was founded in 1948. It is a non-profit association for the promotion of health care and communication. It is not just interested in human health but also the protection of animals and plants.

In Korea is the Green Cross Corp, whose main business is pharmaceuticals.

In Japan, a flag with a green cross on a white background is often displayed on construction sites and factories to encourage workers to remember health and safety. It also appears on badges and arm bands for the same purpose.

However, it wasn’t until 1984 that the Royal Pharmaceutical Society of Great Britain officially chose the green cross as the symbol for pharmacy.

All healthcare workers, including the UK’s 14,000 pharmacy teams, are there to help you.

Sadly, the pressures of the Covid-19 pandemic, sometimes saw frustrations from a minority of patients spill over into verbal abuse of pharmacy staff (for example when certain medicines were unavailable of delayed).

We want to remind all pharmacy patients and customers to be patient with pharmacy staff, who are doing their utmost to support you; treat them with courtesy, as you yourself would wish to be treated.

Alongside their day job of providing your medicines, health advice and a range of NHS services, pharmacies have gone above and beyond in their efforts to protect the population during the pandemic – including delivering over 20 million covid jabs. They give their all on the NHS frontline and deserve to feel safe at work.

The Assaults on Emergency

Workers Act applies to all pharmacists and their teams providing services for the NHS, so offenders may face prosecution.

Treat pharmacy staff with courtesy, as you yourself would wish to be treated. There must be zero tolerance of abuse in any circumstances.


The National Pharmacy Association was 100 years old last year. The NPA began life as the Retail Pharmacists Union in 1921 and has since grown to become the leading voice of independent community pharmacy across the UK.

Here’s a potted history of community pharmacy since then:



The Retail Pharmacists Union is formed (later to become the National Pharmacy Association). 


Legislation lists poisons that can only be sold in accordance with a prescription given by a doctor, dentist or veterinary surgeon.


Formation of the National Health Service. People can get free prescriptions so there is much more dispensing in pharmacies


Legislation ensures services provided under contract to the NHS in community pharmacies and by community pharmacists are regulated in part by the NHS.


In the aftermath of the thalidomide disaster, thexa Yellow Card scheme is introduced to report adverse drug reactions.


Pharmacy students get work experience after their studies and can put their knowledge into practice; what is now called pre-registration.


New medicines have to be approved and licensed before being allowed on to the market.


Regulations restrict the opening of new pharmacies. They now have to prove that their NHS service is ‘necessary or desirable’.



Pharmacies have seen enormous changes over the years. A century ago, anyone visiting their local pharmacist would have been presented with a very different setting to the modern pharmacy. 

In those days pharmacies were filled with an array of colourful bottles and smells – this was because the medicines that were dispensed by pharmacists were made at the back of the premises.

Pharmacists would create pills and potions by hand, using recipes written in a ledger. They would weigh ingredients and mix and grind them in a mortar.

Today, of course, pharmacies buy medication from wholesalers that has often been imported from across the globe.

Many other changes have taken place in the world of pharmacy over the past century. They include the formation of the NHS in 1948, the overhaul of medicines regulations in 1968, the massive expansion in the range of medicines available to patients and new roles in public health, urgent care and managing long-term conditions; all bringing us to the vital contribution of pharmacies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Modern pharmacists do so much more than hand out pills and count tablets. As well as offering advice and treatment for minor ailments such as ear aches and skin rashes, a pharmacist will refer you for a GP or hospital appointment if something needs checking out further.

Community pharmacy is increasingly integrated with the wider NHS. Pharmacies work closely with GPs and help to prevent hospital admissions and unnecessary GP appointments.

As a result of all this, pharmacists have developed a range of skills that extend far beyond a knowledge of medicines. This has especially been highlighted during the pandemic.

Coronavirus has been the biggest test in the history of community pharmacy. With GP surgeries, opticians and dentists forced to suspend services or provide care remotely, many patients turned to pharmacy teams for face-to-face help. Those teams faced the challenges head-on despite a massive increase in workload.

Community pharmacy is increasingly integrated with the wider NHS

Another consequence of COVID-19 is that it has rapidly accelerated several developments in pharmacy practice. It is clear that community pharmacy will need to keep evolving to meet the ever-changing needs of the population and modern consumer expectations.

Technological advances mean that most prescriptions are now electronic and pharmacists can access elements of electronic patient care records to maximise medicines safety. Pharmacies will always provide a responsive, personal, face-to-face service in the community, but can now also offer the convenience of online ordering and digital communication with patients.

Technology will present other opportunities such as changes to diagnostics and monitoring of disease. Opportunities are growing for patients to run their own tests, such as for blood pressure, and monitor disease progression without necessarily relying on the health service. 

But who is there to help a patient interpret what they are finding or deal with a concerning result? That is one reason why accessible and trusted community pharmacists will always be vital.

Who knows where digital developments may take us in the future? Hopefully it will enable us to get closer to our patients, be even more efficient and provide increasingly personalised treatments.

Whatever the future holds, pharmacies will continue to play an important role in the health, wellbeing and daily life of the communities they serve for decades to come. For pharmacists and their teams, it is a privilege to help people and save lives.

The GPhC regulates pharmacists, pharmacy technicians and pharmacies in Great Britain, and works to assure and improve standards of care for people using pharmacy services. It works to ensure that pharmacy regulation is responsive to, and reflective of, developments in England, Scotland and Wales, and collaborates with a wide range of professionals, regulatory and oversight bodies in all three countries to ensure safe and effective provision of pharmacy services. 






Mr Rudkin pointed out that, although pharmacies are all very different and meet different needs, what they should have in common is:

Support with medicines and advice to help patients improve health and well-being

Good communication and professional behaviour from the pharmacy team

Good quality care that is in the patient’s best interests

A clean and safe environment

Any concerns from patients are listened to and acted on

Privacy and confidentiality of patients are respected and protected

So, how confident can people be about the care and services they receive? Mr Rudkin said: “People will walk into an environment which is very different to a regular shop. The standards of care and quality of services are independently regulated.” 

Patients will also talk to staff who have been trained and educated and are there to keep customers and patients safe. Pharmacists undergo a five-year training programme that includes practice-based training. 

The GPhC sets the standards for education and training of pharmacy staff and the standards that pharmacies have to meet for all aspects of their work. 

One way the GPhC does this is through inspections. Experienced pharmacists and pharmacy technicians visit pharmacies across the country – they receive no notice of these visits – to make sure standards are being upheld. 

Reports of these inspections are publicly available on the GPhC’s website. It also works with pharmacy teams on Continual Professional Development (making sure their skills remain up to date) and revalidation (pharmacy professionals must renew their registration annually, showing they are competent and fit to practise). 

Where there is a significant departure from standards, there is a “very thorough process” by the GPhC to look into concerns, and the results are reported back to those who raised those concerns. 

Accessibility is another key issue facing pharmacies, said Mr Rudkin. This includes physical access – pharmacies need to comply with disability legislation. The ability to get hold of the right information is also very important and GPhC’s standards highlight the importance of patients’ communication needs. 

If someone has a concern about their pharmacy, Mr Rudkin suggested that, in the first instance, they should try to talk to the pharmacy and put their point of view. Sometimes this may not be appropriate and other ways of raising an issue might be better.

Visit the GPhC website at to find out more about how to raise a concern, or call
0203 713 8000.

Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland

PSNI regulates pharmacists in Northern Ireland. It sets standards, holds a register, quality assures education and investigates complaints. It sets and promotes standards for pharmacists’ admission to the register and remaining on it. It handles concerns about the fitness to practise of registrants and takes any necessary action to protect the public.

*81% of the public hold a favourable view of pharmacies Source: NPA


*96% of the population can get to their local pharmacy within 20 minutes