Your Local Pharmacy


Community pharmacists are highly skilled and qualified healthcare professionals who are on hand to answer questions about using your medication, such as what is the right dosage, how and when to take the medicines and how to manage any side effects that could occur.

They will also recommend over the counter medicines for short term conditions and minor ailments when these are appropriate, or provide advice on other measures to help you manage or prevent short term conditions. Although people don’t always think to talk to their pharmacist about these matters, they are an excellent source of advice. And we know from experience that people are more likely to stick to their medicine routine if they get advice from the right healthcare professional in the first place.

You don’t need an appointment to see your local pharmacist and because they are based in pharmacies located in supermarkets and shops they are often open late at night and at the weekends, when most surgeries are closed.

They usually have a separate room so you can have a private discussion about your condition and they can advise you there and then on lifestyle advice and /or over the counter medicines to deal with a range of minor ailments including:

You can also get support with managing long-term conditions such as diabetes or heart disease by having blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar tests at your local pharmacy. You will still need regular reviews with your GP, nurse or specialist - pharmacists can advise on when is best to see a GP.

Getting advice from a local pharmacist is the best first step for a minor health concern. But if you think you or your family member are more seriously ill, then a GP or hospital may be more appropriate.

Frequently asked questions

What are short-term conditions and minor ailments?

Short-term conditions usually improve on their own without a long-term effect on a person’s health. Minor ailments are conditions that can be diagnosed and managed without seeing the doctor. Examples include: coughs, colds and sore throats; warts; acne and indigestion.

What are over-the-counter medicines?

Over-the-counter (OTC) medicines can be bought without a prescription from pharmacies, supermarkets or other shops. Examples include: paracetamol and antihistamines, cough mixture, eye drops and indigestion remedies.

Why can’t I get over-the-counter medicines from my doctor?

After a national public consultation in 2017, a policy to curb routine prescribing of OTC medicines was implemented across the country to save the NHS money and free up GP time. The NHS spends valuable financial resources and doctors’ time on prescribing medicines and other products that you can buy without a prescription. In 2017, the NHS in mid Essex spent over £14 million on providing OTC items on prescription that could have funded:
  • 1214 hip replacements
  • 218 community nurses
  • 10,244 treatments at hospital for Parkinson’s disease
  • Free up GP time to create one extra GP appointment per year for every person in mid Essex.
As our local population continues to grow/age, prescribing OTC medicines places more pressure on already stretched NHS resources. Significant savings can be made by not taking up a GP appointment for medicines that can be bought over the counter and seeking advice from other healthcare specialists like pharmacists. This helps us to save money and free up GP appointments and resources for those with more serious, complex conditions.

If you are no longer prescribing over-the-counter medicines, where can I get them from?

Medicines can be purchased from community pharmacies and / or supermarkets. These often have long opening times so you can get your medicines quickly and treat your condition early, rather than having to wait for a GP appointment. The range of medicines available to buy is increasing and community pharmacists are experts who are best placed to give advice on the right product for you to use. You may find it helpful to keep a small supply of medicines at home for use, such as painkillers for headaches and remedies for colds and sore throats. The NHS website also contains a lot of useful information on a range of minor conditions (such as constipation, strains and sprains), which you can manage yourself. If your problem is more serious and needs the attention of a GP, your pharmacist will be able to recognise this and advise you to see your GP.

I am exempt from paying prescription charges or my child is under 16 years old and normally gets their prescriptions free. How does this affect me?

This policy applies to everyone living in mid Essex, including:
  • People who get their prescriptions free
  • Those with a medical / maternity exemption
  • Children under the age of 16 years and adults over the age of 60 years (in the case of children, it is the parent / guardian / carer responsibility to purchase these medicines
  • Those with a prescription pre-payment certificate
  • People receiving income-related support

I have a long-term condition and take OTC medicines regularly; do I need to buy them?

People who need medicines for a long-term condition will still be able to get them with a prescription. This policy only applies to the use of medicines and products for short-term conditions. Your GP will continue to prescribe items you need for your long-term condition. For example: Paracetamol for short-term pain relief and headaches should be purchased. Paracetamol used in the long-term management of chronic pain needing two tablets four times a day regularly, may be prescribed.

I have been to my pharmacist to buy a particular type of medicine but they will not sell it to me. What do I do?

We are trying to put an effective system in place that is suitable and appropriate for everyone, but we realise there may be some difficulties for a small number of patients. There are some circumstances when pharmacists might not sell you a medicine. For example:
  • When a product is not licensed for sale for your intended use
  • When a product is not appropriate for you, or could cause you harm
  • There are restrictions on the amount that can be sold and you are asking for too much of the product
If you find yourself in this situation, please speak to your pharmacist, who should be able to advise you on what you should do.

Useful links

For help with your medicines please click here.