Pharmacists are qualified healthcare professionals who can offer clinical advice and over-the-counter medicines for various minor illnesses. They also work with other healthcare professionals to get you the best possible care in a way that works for you and the NHS. The pharmacist will let you know if you need to visit a doctor or other healthcare service, such as a hospital.

What services do pharmacies provide?

Pharmacists train for five years in the use of medicines. They are also trained in managing minor illnesses and providing health and wellbeing advice. They can answer your questions on prescription and over-the-counter medicines.

Pharmacies provide the following services:

  • dispensing of NHS prescriptions
  • access to the repeat prescription service 
  • an emergency supply of medicine, subject to the decision of the pharmacist 
  • non-prescription medicines like paracetamol
  • disposal of unwanted or out-of-date medicines

Some pharmacies will deliver your prescription medicines to you, but you may need to pay for this service. You can use the Find a pharmacy service and check the treatments and services page of the pharmacy profile to see if they offer this service.

Pharmacy First

The Pharmacy First scheme means that patients across England can now get prescription-only treatment for seven common conditions at their local high street pharmacy, without needing to see a GP.

This can include prescribing and supplying antibiotics and antivirals where clinically appropriate. 

Your local pharmacy can now supply prescription-only treatment, if they believe you need it, for the following conditions: 

  • Sinusitis (for patients aged 12 years and over only)
  • Sore throat (aged 5+)
  • Earache (aged 1 year-17)
  • Infected insect bite (aged 1 year+)
  • Impetigo (aged 18 years+)
  • Shingles (aged 18 years+)
  • Uncomplicated urinary tract infections (women aged 16 to 64) 

If you are feeling unwell with any of these conditions, you can go to your local participating pharmacy and ask for a private consultation with the pharmacist. 

You may also be referred by a GP practice if they don’t have any appointments and believe your pharmacy can help. The NHS111 helpline service may also refer you. Pharmacists can also offer this service on-the-spot if appropriate.

Find out more about Pharmacy First.

Male pharmacist taking medicines off shelf

Can a pharmacist prescribe medication?

Pharmacists can offer advice and over-the-counter medication to help with a range of common conditions and minor injuries, including:

  • common ailments such as coughs, colds and the flu
  • aches, pains and skin rashes

Your pharmacist can help manage repeat prescriptions and help with any questions you might have about the medication the doctor has prescribed you.

You can also only buy certain products classified as ‘pharmacy medicines’ from a pharmacist. These medicines, called ‘pharmacy-only medicines’, aren’t usually displayed on open shelves. 

Is a chat with my pharmacist confidential?

Many pharmacies have a private consultation room where you can discuss issues with pharmacy staff without being overheard. Ask them if you would like to talk in private.

Find out more about pharmacies on the NHS website.

You can find your nearest pharmacy, including high street retailers, supermarkets and independent pharmacies by visiting the Find A Pharmacy page on the NHS website. You can also see what other people think of pharmacies near you on our Feedback Centre.

Do I need to see the doctor every time I need a prescription?

Not necessarily. A pharmacist can help manage repeat prescriptions for you. If you take a medication regularly and your condition is stable, your GP can offer a long-term repeat prescription.

Can pharmacists provide advice about the medication I’m taking for a long-term condition? 

You can ask your pharmacist for advice about any of your medicines.

If you’re prescribed a medication to treat a long-term condition for the first time, you can get extra help and advice from your pharmacist. This scheme is called the New Medicine Service and applies to conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease, heart failure and stroke.

People often have problems when they start a new medicine. The pharmacist will support you to use your medicine safely and to the best effect.

Bottles of medicine

Can they give me general advice for my health and wellbeing?

You can ask a pharmacist (instead of your GP) about how best to keep you and your family well. They can give all sorts of advice, from how to eat healthily, quit smoking, lose weight, and what type of exercise you could do.

What other services do pharmacists offer?

Your local pharmacist might also offer other NHS services, such as:

  • smoking cessation
  • blood pressure tests
  • weight management
  • flu and covid vaccines.

To find out what your community pharmacist provides, ask them.

Some pharmacists are trained to spot people at risk of hypertension. They will offer you a blood pressure test if they think you are at risk. They’ll share results with your GP so you can discuss any treatment you might need. If you have very high blood pressure, you’ll be urgently referred to your GP within 24 hours.

I’ve just been discharged from the hospital. How can pharmacists help me?

If you were prescribed new medication while in the hospital, they can refer you to a pharmacy for extra help and guidance.

The pharmacy will check any changes in the quantity, dosage or frequency of your medication and compare and review any new medicine with anything you were prescribed before you were in the hospital.

The pharmacist will have a confidential chat with you to discuss the medication and any changes and ensure you know how to take the medicine.

NHS services

How to register with a GP

It is your right to have a professional interpreter help you at every stage of your healthcare journey.

Find out more

Getting a referral

When you need specialist NHS support, like hospital tests or treatment, you often need a referral from your GP first. 

Find out more

Getting urgent or emergency care

If you need quick help for a medical problem, there are different routes depending on whether the issue is an emergency or urgent.

Find out more

How do I get a dentist appointment?

Many people are struggling to get dentist appointments.

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Using the NHS app

You can access a range of NHS services from your smartphone, tablet and other devices using the NHS app.

Find out more

Getting an NHS interpreter

It is your right to have a professional interpreter help you at every stage of your healthcare journey. 

Find out more