Pharmacists play a key role in providing quality healthcare. They are experts in medicines and will use their clinical expertise, together with their practical knowledge, to ensure the safe supply and use of medicines by the public.
A pharmacist has to be registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) and have worked for at least a year under the supervision of an experienced and qualified pharmacist, either in a hospital or community pharmacy such as a supermarket or high street pharmacy.
Around 20% of pharmacists work in hospitals and play an essential role in patient care. Working as part of a multidisciplinary team, hospital pharmacists manage case loads and provide treatment programmes for all hospital patients. They specialise in a wide variety of clinical areas, such as respiratory medicine, cardiology, infectious diseases, paediatrics and critical care.
Around 70% of pharmacists work in the community in premises on local high streets all over the country. Community pharmacists prepare and dispense prescription and non-prescription medicines. They are also able to give you advice about how to use your medicines and highlight any possible side effects.
They offer advice on common problems such as coughs, colds, aches and pains, as well as healthy eating and stopping smoking. They can also help you decide whether you need to see a doctor.
This means that your pharmacist may ask you a range of questions before handing over any medicines, especially if you ask for medicines that do not require a prescription.
Questions your pharmacist may ask include:
- Have you taken the medicine before?;
- Who is the medicine for?;
- What are the symptoms?;
- How long have you had these symptoms?;
- What action has already been taken?;
- Are you taking any other medication for this or any other reasons?
You can talk to your pharmacist in confidence, even about the most personal symptoms, and you don't need to make an appointment. It is possible to walk into any community pharmacy and ask to speak with the pharmacist. They may be able to spend some time with you or offer you an appointment for a consultation. All the discussions with your pharmacist can take place in person or by phone.
Around 85% of pharmacies now have a private consultation area where patients can discuss issues with pharmacy staff without being overheard by other members of the public.