Community pharmacies, also called chemists, are one-stop health shops, offering services ranging from dispensing prescription medicines, selling medicines over the counter, giving advice on minor ailments, to providing services to help you to stop smoking and manage conditions such as asthma.
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 are experts in the use of medicines - dispensing and supply 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 prescribed 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They can also dispose of out-of-date medicines.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 provide services to review your medication to help you to get the best outcomes from your treatment. Many pharmacies now provide consultation rooms so they can offer these services in private.
You can find details of pharmacy rotas across Northern Ireland on the Business Services Organisation (BSO) website at the link below.
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 exchange, 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 Health and Social Care service provider.