Every year, millions of us visit our doctor with minor health problems that a local pharmacy could help with.
By visiting your pharmacy instead of your doctor, you could save yourself time and trouble – no need to book an appointment, just walk in. This also means your doctor can focus on treating people who are sicker than you.
Pharmacists can help recognise and treat many common illnesses. They can give advice and where appropriate, recommend over-the-counter medicines that could help clear up the problem.
If they think you need to see a doctor for your illness, they will advise you to do that.
Minor ailment scheme
In some parts of the country, there are NHS minor ailment schemes. These allow pharmacies to provide you with medicines for free on the NHS, as well as giving you advice and support about how to care for minor conditions yourself.
The medicines covered by the scheme are different depending on where in England you live, so you will need to talk to your local pharmacy about what they offer.
Anyone who doesn't normally have to pay for prescriptions from their doctor – for example because they're under 16, over 60 or on benefits – is eligible for the scheme and will not need to pay for the medicine that the pharmacist suggests.
Find out if you're entitled to free NHS prescriptions.
However, if you do normally pay for your prescriptions, then you will still need to pay a prescription charge for any medicines your pharmacy recommends.
How to access the minor ailment scheme
Not all pharmacies in England are part of the minor ailments scheme so you will first have to check if your local pharmacy is part of the scheme.
You can do this by:
- finding your local pharmacy
- clicking on it for more details
- clicking on the "Departments and services" tab
- looking for "Minor ailment scheme" or "Minor ailment service" listed under "Pharmacy Service (NHS)"
To get your medicines free, you might need to bring proof that you don't normally have to pay prescription charges. Talk to your pharmacist about what you should bring.
Your pharmacy may be able to help with:
- mild skin conditions, such as acne, eczema, psoriasis, impetigo, athlete's foot
- coughs and colds, including blocked nose (nasal congestion), and sore throats
- bruises, sunburn, and minor burns and scalds
- constipation and piles (haemorrhoids)
- hay fever, dry eyes and allergies (including rashes, bites and stings)
- aches and pains, including earache, headache, migraine, back pain and toothache
- vomiting, heartburn, indigestion, diarrhoea and threadworms
- period pain, thrush and cystitis
- head lice (nits)
- conjunctivitis, cold sores and mouth ulcers
- warts and verrucas
- nappy rash and teething
Visiting your pharmacy about common health problems frees up time for doctors and emergency departments, which are already stretched, especially during the winter months.