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Frequently asked questions


Why are people being encouraged to visit pharmacies?


Community pharmacists are the most accessible primary care professionals, available without appointment where people live, work and shop, reaching out to people who might not want to visit their GP or a clinic but are in need of advice and support from a healthcare professional. Community pharmacies can offer a walk-in service with access to healthcare professionals who can offer advice and supply effective treatments for many minor ailments. Community pharmacists can also help you maintain your health with services such as smoking cessation or sexual health screening and offer advice on healthy living.


What training does a community pharmacist have?


It takes five years to become a pharmacist, with a minimum of a four year university degree and a year’s supervised practice training. However, the majority will have further training to deliver new services and all pharmacists are required by their professional regulator to maintain and develop their skills and experience through continuing professional development.

Other members of the pharmacy team such as registered pharmacy technicians or pharmacy assistants will also have nationally recognised training in medicines.


Won’t the pharmacist or pharmacy staff just try and sell me something?


As registered healthcare professionals, community pharmacists and pharmacy technicians are bound by a Code of Ethics to provide you with appropriate advice or recommendations. In some case this may mean they can, after a consultation, recommend an effective over the counter medicine or they may advise you to see your GP or in some cases to go straight to A&E.


What if I want to discuss a personal problem and don’t want other customers overhearing?


The vast majority of community pharmacies which deliver NHS services will have a consulting room or private area where you can discuss your health concerns directly and discreetly with the pharmacists or a member of the pharmacy team.


Why should I visit a pharmacy when I’m ill instead of going to the GP or A&E?


Community pharmacy can offer you a walk-in service with access to a healthcare professional who can offer advice and supply effective treatments for many minor ailments and advise you on whether it is necessary for you to make a GP appointment or go to A&E.


What is a medicines use review (MUR)?


A medicines use review (MUR) is where a pharmacist reviews a person’s use of their medicines, offers them appropriate advice on taking the medicines for maximum benefit and may make a recommendation to the person’s GP. Between April 2012 and March 2013 community pharmacists carried out over 2.8 million medicines use reviews (PSNC figs website).


Why should I have an MUR?


MURs can help identify any problems you are experiencing with your medicines, particularly if you are taking a number of medicines. People can find it hard to remember to take their medicines, in what order they should take them or have difficulty swallowing tablets. The pharmacist can suggest ways to address these problems and if necessary contact the GP to prescribe a different formulation or dose, or even a different product.
Improving how people take their medicines will reduce wastage but more importantly ensure that patients gain the maximum benefit from their prescribed medicines.


Do I have to pay for an MUR?


No – it is a free service provided by the NHS through community pharmacies. You can ask the pharmacist to carry out an MUR.


What is the New Medicines Service?


The New Medicines Service (NMS) is an NHS service community pharmacists can offer people who have been prescribed a new medicine for the first time for either an existing or newly-diagnosed health problem. Many people experience problems when they start a new medicine and in some cases people choose to stop taking the medicine. When you start your medicine you can talk to the pharmacist, who is an expert in medicines, and ask questions about side-effects, or the best time to take the medicines. At a follow-up appointment one to two weeks later, the person meets the pharmacist to talk about any problems with the medicine such as side effects. There is a final appointment a fortnight later to check everything is still alright.


What is a Healthy Living Pharmacy?


A Healthy Living Pharmacy has a team which proactively offers brief advice on a range of health issues such as smoking, exercise, sexual health, healthy eating and alcohol at every opportunity – over the counter requests, prescription intervention, medicines use reviews etc. The concept was developed in Portsmouth and recognised the significant role community pharmacies could pay in helping reduce health inequalities by delivering consistent and high quality health and wellbeing services, promoting health and providing proactive health advice and interventions.


What other services do community pharmacies offer?


All pharmacies offer dispensing and repeat dispensing services, health promotion and healthy lifestyle advice, signposting to other services, support for self-care and disposal of medicines. With further training and accreditation community pharmacies can offer:

  • Medicines use reviews;
  • New medicines service;
  • Smoking cessation;
  • Seasonal flu vaccinations;
  • Sexual health screening including hepatitis and HIV;
  • Alcohol screening and intervention;
  • Anticoagulation monitoring;
  • Pneumococcal immunisation;
  • Tuberculosis therapy;
  • Oral contraceptive supply;
  • Phlebotomy services.


Why do all pharmacies not offer all of these services?


Some services provided by pharmacies, such a medicines use reviews (MURs) are commissioned at a national level so all community pharmacists are paid to deliver the service, which is free to NHS patients. Other services such as sexual health screening or oral contraceptive supply are commissioned at a local level. If community pharmacies are not commissioned to provide the service they will not receive any payment. Some services require the community pharmacist to have undertaken further training so that they have the skills and competencies to deliver the service.


How can I find out what services my community pharmacy offers?


You can find out what services your local pharmacies offer along with information about their opening hours on the NHS Choices website ( Most pharmacies display details of the services they can provide and if a service you require is not advertised you can ask the pharmacy team if they provide it or they can direct you to a pharmacy that does provide such a service.


What is Pharmacy Voice?


Pharmacy Voice was formed by the three largest community pharmacy associations to create a stronger, unified voice for their independent and multiple members. The members of Pharmacy Voice are the Association of Independent Multiple Pharmacies (AIMp), the Company Chemists’ Association (CCA), and the National Pharmacy Association (NPA).


What does Pharmacy Voice do?


Pharmacy Voice was formed by the three largest community pharmacy associations to create a stronger, unified voice for their independent and multiple members. It develops discussion papers on key strategic issues for community pharmacy, responds with a single voice to public consultations on policy, health and regulation issues impacting on the sector and raises awareness among the public and stakeholders of the capabilities of community pharmacy.


What is Dispensing Health?


Dispensing Health is a co-ordinated, public-facing campaign by Pharmacy Voice to raise awareness of community pharmacy as dispensers of health. The campaign will highlight the range of services community pharmacy offers patients, and will call for action to use this health service resource more effectively to improve patient care and deliver value for the NHS.

Did you know

There are 11,200-plus community pharmacies in England (13,000 in the UK).