Pharmacies, also called chemists, are one-stop health shops, offering services ranging from dispensing medicines and giving advice on minor ailments, to running clinics and helping you manage conditions such as asthma or diabetes.
Finding out if you need to see a doctor
All pharmacists have to be registered with the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland.
They can give you expert advice on medicines, as well as many common conditions, without an appointment and sometimes outside usual hours.
They are often worth visiting before you head to your local doctor and can help you decide whether you really need to see your GP.
Pharmacists can also give you information about other local health services.
- Pharmacists' code of ethics - Pharmaceutical Society website
- Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland website
Pharmacists are experts in the use of medicines and dispensing them is an important part of their job.
You can obtain both over-the-counter medicines (which do not need a prescription from your doctor) and prescribed medicines from a pharmacist.
Repeat dispensing means they can supply you with medicines for up to a year, without you having to see your GP each time a prescription runs out.
Getting advice on medication
Self-medication for common ailments has become more and more popular, especially with the growing number of over-the-counter medicines that are available.
Your pharmacist can advise you on the most effective treatments and make sure that you aren't treating yourself with an over-the-counter product that clashes with a prescription medicine.
They can also dispose of out-of-date medicines.
Getting health advice
Pharmacists are qualified to give advice about many different problems, including minor ailments. Some pharmacies even run clinics for conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and for those who need anticoagulation treatment.
Some now provide consultation rooms so they can offer these services in private.
Issues your pharmacist may be able to help with
Your pharmacist may be able to help you with:
- eye infections, stomach upsets, skin conditions, allergies, aches and pains
- common drugs, vitamins and minor first-aid
- healthy eating and living, including giving up smoking
- blood pressure and diabetes monitoring and needle exchanges, truss fittings, stoma products and incontinence supplies
- women's health, including treatment for thrush, emergency contraception and pregnancy testing
- children's problems, including nappy rash, teething, coughs and colds
- all prescribed and over the counter medicines
Issues your pharmacist may not be trained to help with
Your pharmacist may not routinely be able to help with:
- stitching or wound and dressing care
- severe lacerations, cuts, severe sprains, strains and fractures
- infected wounds and foreign bodies
- head injuries or loss of consciousness
- suspected broken bones or heavy blood loss
- persistent chest pain or difficulty breathing
- drug overdose, the swallowing of foreign bodies or poisoning
You will need to seek medical help from your local doctor or other appropriate NHS service provider.