A pharmacist is a qualified health and social care professional that can offer clinical advice and over-the-counter medicines. If you have aches and pains, a sore throat, cough, skin rash, or some other minor condition, they will offer you medicine without any trouble. But antibiotics are not OTC and require a prescription.
Can pharmacists prescribe medicine?
A pharmacist cannot prescribe antibiotics if they are not suitably trained. They need to be qualified as a Pharmacist Independent Prescriber. PIP is a practice certificate that allows them to prescribe autonomously for conditions within their clinical competence. It includes most medicines classified as Schedule 2, 3, 4, or 5 Controlled Drugs (except diamorphine, dipipanone, or cocaine for addiction treatment).
They can prescribe medicine if:
- Have at least two years of appropriate patient-orientated experience in the UK;
- Completed a GPhC-accredited course;
- Meet the new scheme of standards;
- Show an endorsement letter from a medical practitioner confirming their competence.
Pharmacists are also allowed to sell to patients under a patient group direction (PGD). These patients don’t need to be individually identified to be sold, supplied, and/or administered medicine, e.g., urinary tract infection, toddler conjunctivitis, and eczema.
Interestingly, some reports share that, during periods of high demand for medical services (especially during the pandemic), prescriptions issued by other professionals relieve pressure on GPs. Also, patient outcomes are similar in any case.
Do i need to see the doctor every time i need a prescription?
If your local pharmacist cannot prescribe antibiotics, you will need to see a doctor to get them (see the guide on how to choose a gp). But not every time.
When doctors prescribe medications for long-term, regular use, they issue a repeat prescription. This means they gave the patient permission for this prescription that can be filled multiple times without another appointment until a certain set date.
The doctor might also schedule a check-up. But until then, the pharmacist will be able to issue the medication repeatedly. When it’s time to order the medicine again, the patient can fill an online form or call their GP.
Whom do i turn to for general advice about my health and wellbeing?
If you have general medical concerns, it’s best to see your GP with the NHS or private practice. They should have formal qualifications and practical experience in providing healthcare services to give you health advice. If you need follow-up appointments, this should be discussed during your first visit.
If you have an urgent medical problem, get help from NHS 111 online or by phone. They will tell you where to:
- Get help based on your symptoms;
- Find reliable health information;
- Get your over-the-counter medicine.
Can a pharmacist diagnose?
Pharmacists have the qualifications to assess certain common health conditions and advise on the treatment. It might be coughs, colds and sore throats, tummy troubles, skin rashes, eye infections, hay fever, etc.
But with any condition, patients experience different levels of severity or have additional symptoms or a particular medical history. Even if a patient has something as simple as a cold, they may need different types of care. If they feel your condition requires the attention of a doctor, they will not diagnose you.
Can a pharmacist give injections?
A pharmacist can administer injections by various routes. They also know how to respond to negative reactions and side effects. However, not many pharmacies provide vaccination services.
Before the COVID pandemic, the most frequently provided service was the seasonal flu vaccination. In 2021, many High Street pharmacies like Boots and Superdrug entered government-approved programmes, accelerating vaccination rates. In addition to pharmacists who were already trained to give injections, hundreds more entered training.
What other services do pharmacists offer?
Pharmacies can offer extensive services for people with minor health concerns. For example, if your symptoms are signs of a serious health issue, a pharmacist will make sure you get the help you need. After all, they have five years of training, so you can rely on them for needs beyond buying medicines.
Help with your prescriptions
Pharmacists can answer your questions about your prescription medicines; some even answer questions over the phone. Whenever you think you want to change treatment, stop taking medicine, or have concerns about the effects, ask your pharmacist. They will help you figure out the next course of action.
Offer tobacco cessation aids
The role of pharmacists in improving the health of the population has been recognized in many papers. All of them can advise smokers, and some provide them with treatment. Tobacco cessation treatment can involve:
- Explaining health benefits of quitting
- Explaining the withdrawal syndrome
- Assessing nicotine dependence
- Discussing medication and arranging a suppl
Consult on travel health
A pharmacist can provide travel consultations, explain the potential risks a traveller may face, and clarify how to mitigate them. This service has become more important than ever in the last two years.
Many UK pharmacists have already received comprehensive e-learning training on travel vaccination service, risk assessment, vaccine-preventable travel diseases, record keeping, and a wide range of other scenarios.
Give tips on healthy lifestyle
Lifestyle counselling isn’t a common practice, but all you need is to ask for it. Pharmacists are well-placed and sufficiently trained to educate on wellness, disease prevention, and lifestyle change. They also have easy access and daily interactions with patients in general (displays, materials) and personal encounters (prescription services, medicine management).
Offer oral emergency contraceptives
Anyone over the age of 16 can buy an emergency contraceptive pill from most pharmacies. But to be safe, tell your pharmacist if you are taking any medicines, and they can suggest an emergency contraception pill or advise you to seek other options (like an intrauterine device).
Other services that can help you find the right treatment
You can reduce the chance of complications related to your medicines by communicating with your pharmacist and GP. The care you receive from an NHS GP is usually very good. However, when the treatment is time-sensitive, you may want to look for faster routes, including private medicine.
Choosing medical coverage is a very personal choice, often a very complicated one. Direct your questions about benefits and discounts, prescription coverage, and more to a private health insurance broker. Getting the right treatments starts with choosing the right doctor, so don’t take this decision lightly.
Antibiotics are restricted in the UK for a good reason. Without a health provider’s supervision, they can cause an infection to become more powerful. So, book a doctor visit or seek a pharmacist who can make a proper assessment and prescribe you antibiotics. If you’d like to receive other medical services from a local pharmacy technician, ask what they are authorized for.