Six reasons to go to your local pharmacist
Unsure what you can and can’t talk to your chemist about? Abi Jackson looks at the health services that we could all tap into — no script required.
Have you ever thought 'I'll speak to the pharmacist about this'? Maybe when you're under the weather, but not quite poorly enough to make an emergency GP appointment or rush to A&E.
Or when you're unsure about a new prescription and possible side-effects, or even just for general advice on managing high blood pressure.
We've all read about how community pharmacies are under-used, yet could play a significant role in helping reduce the pressure on over-stretched GP practices and A&E departments - as well as providing a useful service to the public.
"People are definitely using their pharmacist as a first port of call for non-serious ailments, but there will always be a need to promote this message," says Boots UK pharmacist Angela Chalmers.
"It's important people are reassured that even if it's something the pharmacist is unable to treat, they will be signposted in the right direction."
The services don't stop at minor ailments. You can pop in for advice on managing diabetes, get your cholesterol levels checked or find out which vaccines you'll need before travelling.
Pharmacists have time to talk
If you've left your GP appointment feeling a bit confused about your new prescription, or didn't remember to ask all the questions you'd gone in with, a pharmacist might prove immensely helpful.
Not only are they armed with knowledge on all things related to pharmaceuticals, they're trained - and used - to talking to the public.
"Pharmacists are trained, have counselling skills and we talk to people all day.
"We deal with sensitive issues all the time, so are used to being sympathetic and tactful if someone wants a quiet word," says Chalmers.
You can get services and advice from any pharmacy, it doesn't have to be where you get regular medicines from. The team working alongside the pharmacist [pharmacy technicians, dispensers and counter assistants] are also trained to support and help you.
They can point you in the right direction
Lots of people put off going to see their GP because they don't want to be a burden, and sometimes you simply might not be sure whether your symptoms warrant a proper check or are an A&E-worthy emergency.
Perhaps you're just too anxious to go for that routine hospital scan.
Speaking to your pharmacist could help you feel reassured that you're making the most sensible decision.
Pharmacists are great at signposting you to the right health provider," says Ms Chalmers. "This provides reassurance if people are confused about where to turn.
"You can even phone your local pharmacist to see what direction you need to go in."
Pharmacists follow a professional code of ethics, similar to GPs.
The key one is to put your needs first. So you can be assured they will provide quality advice, suitable treatment and refer you to another health professional or service if required.
You could be entitled to free medicine without a prescription
A recent Facebook post from a mother on finding out she was entitled to Calpol free of charge after moaning about it - went viral.
She was right - the NHS minor ailment service allows pharmacies to issue treatments for minor ailments like coughs, colds, diarrhoea and mild eczema, without the need for a prescription.
If you're eligible (mainly under 16s and over 60s, though this may vary according to where you live), it's free of charge.
There are lots of specialised services to make use of
From weight loss and sexual health advice, support and assistance in quitting smoking (which is available on the NHS) through to blood pressure checks and Type 2 diabetes screening, pharmacies can be a great way of staying up-to-date with vital health checks.
Visit your local pharmacy to find out which services they offer to support you.
You don't (usually) need an appointment
You can literally pick up the phone or walk in off the street and get reliable advice from a highly-qualified health professional on an array of medicines and health issues.
If you're hoping for a chat in a consultation room however, you may be asked to make an appointment.
It can be private and confidential too
If the idea of talking about your health concerns at the pharmacy counter, where other customers might be standing around, makes you feel uncomfortable, that needn't be a reason not to approach your pharmacist for advice.
Some of the larger chain pharmacies may have consultation rooms.
You can also ask at your small local pharmacy if you can have a discreet chat with a member of staff.
Find out more
For more on Boots pharmacy services, visit www.boots.com/en/ Pharmacy-Health . Along with Dr Sarah Jarvis and other healthcare professionals, Care have produced a family health reference guide, Little Book Of Care. Visit www.allthecareyouneed.com