Some people think that pharmacists simply hand out medicines; however, they do a great deal more. Pharmacists are highly trained medical professionals, qualified to give advice on health issues and prescription and over the counter medicines, and ensure the safe supply and use of medicines by the public. Community Pharmacists may offer a medicines use review to people who are taking a few different medicines. This is an annual structured review to help people to manage their medicines more effectively. The pharmacist reviews the patient's use of their medicines, ensuring they understand how their medicines should be used and why they have been prescribed, identifying any problems and then, where necessary, providing feedback to the GP. There are many other sectors of pharmacy, while the community pharmacist is a familiar sight, pharmacists also work in hospitals, doctor’s surgeries and in industry and research.

      Melanie asked her pharmacist questions about her medicines, but commented ‘a lot of people don’t just pop in and ask the pharmacist for advice ... they are very knowledgeable people’. 

    Simon, a GP, says pharmacists have specialised knowledge...

    Simon, a GP, says pharmacists have specialised knowledge...

    Age at interview: 31

    Sex: Male

    I think pharmacists are a totally underused resource I’d much prefer people went to their pharmacist and asked about, you know, both about review prescriptions or their regular prescriptions, you know, both coughs and colds and skin rashes which they’re very, very good with but also any concerns they have about side effects because they…

      Especially side effects because I think often a lot of people say they didn’t want to bother the doctor and but haven’t thought of asking a pharmacist.

      No and the pharmacists know more about that than we GP’s do, you know, what, if someone comes concerned about a side effect to a doctor unless it’s a particularly common side effect we’re likely to look it up pharmacists often know because that’s what they specialise in interactions between drugs, how drugs work and, and the side effects so absolutely, I think it’s well worth talking to pharmacists about that.

    Melanie checked with the pharmacist about side effects

    Melanie checked with the pharmacist about side effects

    Age at interview: 44

    Sex: Female

    Age at diagnosis: 43

    They said, the pharmacist said to try and take them at the same time every day, so, because they didn’t say a specific time, you know, I take my multi vitamins on a morning so I might as well take my antidepressants on a morning.

      Like a routine?


      You mentioned the pharmacist I mean what; did you find the pharmacist was helpful at all in talking to you?

      Oh yeah, yeah.

      Did you talk to him or her about that prescription when you first picked it up or anything like that?

      Yeah and I’ve talked to them since as well and...

      In what way have they been helpful would you say?

      Just sort of confirmed things that I’ve said that I’ve suffered as a side effect and they’ve either confirmed, you know, that that’s what a lot of people say or, you know, one particular one that I mentioned they said oh that’s interesting.

    Catherine said the pharmacists in her local pharmacy were really friendly and approachable. ‘I can speak to them about any concerns I have’. Hannah felt a chat with the pharmacist could be helpful ‘because there are times where like you don’t feel like you can keep going back to your GP... sometimes you don’t know if how you’re feeling is as a result of the depression or whether it is actually a side effect’. Sonia’s pharmacist noticed that the dose had increased since her last prescription and checked with her to make sure this was correct. When she was feeling almost suicidal she was worried about being given a large supply of tablets and the pharmacist agreed to keep them for her and to give her a week’s supply at a time to avoid any risks. Gerry went to a pharmacy for an emergency supply of his antidepressant when he forgot to take his tablets with him when we went away.

      Most pharmacies have consulting rooms so that you can talk to the pharmacist confidentially, but often people don’t realise this is possible. Steve said everyone knew him in his local pharmacy so it would be awkward to have a conversation about his medicines in the shop. Charlotte said she was more inclined to look up her medicines on the internet than ask a pharmacist about them. Only a few people said their pharmacist had reviewed their medicines. Stephen takes several different medicines and his pharmacist reviews them annually, but Stephen doesn’t feel he gets any particular benefit from this.

      Most people had little contact with the pharmacist other than to collect their prescription. Stephen’s view was typical. ‘To me… the treatment is me and my doctor, the pharmacist to me simply gives me the pills.’ Similarly, Victoria said the pharmacy was somewhere she went to collect her supply of tablets. ‘They just hand the prescription over and that’s that.’ When people have a repeat prescription it is often sent straight to a nominated pharmacy, so they can simply collect their medicines when they need a new supply. Usually people found that this system worked well, but sometimes there were problems, for example if the prescription didn’t arrive at the pharmacy at the right time. Thomas was frustrated by mistakes made by the pharmacy when he needed to renew his prescriptions. ‘The repeat prescriptions, they would always get mucked up by [pharmacy]. They would always get the timing wrong They wouldn’t pick it up or say ‘oh you have to tell us when to pick it up, and ring and so on’, and then it wouldn’t come through’.

      (See also ‘ Being prescribed an antidepressant ’, ‘‘ Finding out more information about antidepressant medicines ’ and ‘ Reviewing antidepressant use ’).

    Last reviewed June 2016. ​Last updated June 2016.

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