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Chemists, or pharmacists, are experts on medicines and can give professional advice on medication and common conditions without an appointment.
In fact, it may be useful for you to visit your local pharmacist before you decide to make an appointment to see your GP.
Issues that your pharmacist can help you with include:
- Prescriptions: Medicines and treatments
- Minor illnesses (see below)
- Advice on healthy living
- Health monitoring advice (regarding blood pressure and diabetes, for example)
Your local pharmacist can advise you on minor illnesses such as:
- Upset stomach
- Aches and pains
- Eye infections
- Skin conditions
- Women’s health issues
Outside of normal hours
There should be arrangements for dispensing urgent prescriptions outside normal hours including weekends.
If you need to go to a pharmacist outside of normal hours – for example, before 9am or after 530 pm on weekdays – some larger stores such as Boots, TESCO and Sainsburys operate a late or Sunday pharmacy service.
Local papers also advertise which pharmacies operate Sunday opening times for emergencies.
Otherwise, visit the Business Services Organisation website for the pharmaceutical rota and click on your local area for the relevant information
Since the 1st April 2010, prescriptions are now available free-of-charge in Northern Ireland.
However, if you see a doctor privately, any medicines prescribed cannot be provided free-of-charge by the Health Service (HS). Unfortunately, you will have to pay the full retail cost of the medicine.
Furthermore, if you see a doctor under the HS but you are prescribed a medicine which is not specified on the HS authorised list, the medicine will be deemed to have been prescribed privately and you will have to pay for it in full.
Other help at the chemist
Pharmacists can help if you need assistance with taking your medicines. For example, they will help if you find labels hard to read, packaging difficult to open or tablets difficult to swallow. They will also help if you have to take many tablets and have difficulty taking doses at the prescribed times.
Some chemists may offer the following services:
- Prescription collection service – at the patient’s request, they will collect prescriptions from your GP practice
- Home delivery service – this allows prescription medicines to be delivered to the patient. It is sometimes restricted to housebound, disabled or frail patients as it limits the opportunity for contact between the pharmacist and the patient or their carer.
You have the right to decide which pharmacist you use to dispense your prescriptions and to have your prescription dealt with as quickly as possible.