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Health Matters: Pharmacies have been there throughout the pandemic – but do you know just how much they can offer?

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Pharmacies can offer a lot more than many people think.
Pharmacies can offer a lot more than many people think.

Most of us have popped into our local pharmacy at some point.

It may be a pharmacy near your home, or maybe it is closer to your work. You may have picked up a prescription for you or a family member, or maybe you went in for some advice about a minor ailment.

Did you know however, just what your pharmacy can do for you nowadays?

Urgent supply of medicines

We’ve all done it; everything is packed into the car, we are halfway down the A9 and suddenly someone says: “I forgot my inhaler!”

Any pharmacy in Scotland can supply you the medicines you are regularly prescribed as an emergency if you are registered with a GP practice in Scotland.

There are a few exceptions, but on the whole, if you have forgotten any of your regular meds then call in to the nearest pharmacy and they will sort you out.

You can also get the same service if, for example, your GP surgery is closed, or you are unable to get an appointment in time, and your repeat medicine has run out. This also saves a call to the busy GP out of hours service or A&E.

Pharmacy first

Pharmacies have always been able to provide us with remedies for those minor conditions that we all get. Now there is a service that allows your pharmacy to provide you with what you require for most of the common clinical conditions free of charge.

Your pharmacist or a trained member of their staff will chat with you about your condition and symptoms, and if appropriate will provide you with the medication you need, plus they will notify your GP that you have been given the medicine.

If you don’t need a medicine to aid your symptoms you will receive the appropriate advice, or if your symptoms suggest that you really need to see a doctor then the pharmacy will make that referral to your GP practice.

You’re probably aware that in the past year your pharmacist has been able to provide a course of antibiotics for simple urine infections, or for impetigo. This service has now been expanded to cover treatment of shingles and for minor skin infections, such as boils.

Again, it is hoped that you will therefore be able to avoid a lengthy wait at A&E or a GP appointment for these treatments. If your symptoms are more serious though, your pharmacist will always refer you to the doctor.

Pharmacies can also provide you with smoking cessation services, access to emergency contraception, a serial prescription from your GP that allows the pharmacist to provide your regular medicines without having to see the GP for six months to a year and allows them to review your medicines with you, and essential gluten-free foods for those with coeliac disease.

Community pharmacies were the only part of the health service that were able to stay open during the whole of the pandemic. We should make the most of their expert service and advice.

Jackie Agnew is the head of community pharmacy services at NHS Highland.

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