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World Pharmacists Day: Your pharmacist is ready to see you

On World Pharmacists Day, Nana Ofori-Atta reflects that pharmacy has always been there to take on the extra services required to prop up our beloved NHS

Contrary to popular belief and despite our NHS cards, community pharmacists are not actually employed by the NHS. We are employed either as private contractors or by companies that are then contracted by the NHS to provide a set of services to our communities on its behalf.

Pharmacy provides a host of these services, such as dispensing medication, destroying waste medicines, promoting a healthy lifestyle, and signposting patients to the right service providers within the health system.

The lack of understanding about how pharmacists fit into the NHS and the unique position of our role makes it slightly difficult for patients and other health care professional to really know what they can expect from their pharmacist. So today (September 25) on World Pharmacists Day, I will endeavour to provide some clarification on the role community pharmacists play within the NHS.

Read more: Community pharmacy can help the NHS write the best chapters of its history

Thankfully, the days of patients seeing pharmacists as glorified shopkeepers are long gone, in large part thanks to recent public health campaigns and, it seems, almost every advert for medication ending with “speak to your pharmacist”.

Pharmacists are there to give advice and to help patients understand why their GP has prescribed a certain tablet, when they should take it and its possible side-effects – both the ones they should not worry about and the ones that they should. This service is provided by all pharmacists in the new medicine service (NMS) and it saves the GPs time and also saves they NHS money by preventing waste and promoting adherence.

Now, I know it must be a little bit unnerving for patients when all they see behind the counter is a bobbling head who keeps whispering to everyone around them. It may even seem as though the pharmacist isn’t doing very much. Well, all the magic happens in the pharmacist’s head.

Read more: 'We must protect the heart of our profession': A love letter to community pharmacy

Pharmacists make sure every medication handed out is not only the correct one, but also that it is suitable and safe for the patient. This brings me to my favourite pharmacist reference: “Putting it in the bag takes only a few seconds, it’s making sure it doesn’t kill you that takes time.”

Recently, pharmacists were called on to fill a massive gap within the health service when the COVID-19 pandemic hit our country. Pharmacies remained open and accessible to patients during lockdown and sometimes extended hours to help get medication to patients and provide help and advice to their communities. This was arguably the greatest contribution pharmacists have made towards our NHS in living memory.

Read more: Meet the pharmacists proving why this year's World Pharmacists Day theme is spot on

We were also called upon to vaccinate the country when COVID-19 jabs became available, not to mention advocating for vaccination within our local communities. And we continue to provide COVID-19 and flu vaccines to help keep the country healthy through the bitterly cold winters.

So, on today, World Pharmacists Day, this is my love letter to the profession I hold dear and to all the brave and wonderful pharmacists out there.

For all your health needs, ask your local pharmacist. They are highly trained and qualified healthcare professionals with resources to help with all your health niggles. And if they can’t assist you, they will know exactly where to refer you for the help you need.

Nana Ofori-Atta is clinical and custom content editor at C+D

Let C+D know how you’ll be marking World Pharmacists Day by tweeting us @ChemistDruggist or emailing [email protected]

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