What services do NHS pharmacies provide?

A woman visits a pharmacy


All pharmacies (also known as chemists) must provide essential services which include:

  • the dispensing of prescriptions (including repeat dispensing where your GP practice offers this service)
  • disposing of any medicines that you have returned to them
  • promoting public health campaigns and offering related general advice
  • signposting you to other services if they are more appropriate to help with your query or condition
  • offering advice and help so that you can best care for yourself and treat any minor conditions at home

Most pharmacies will also offer other advanced and enhanced services. These include:

  • emergency hormonal contraception (the ‘morning after pill’)
  • stop smoking schemes and advice
  • medicines use reviews which will help you assess if you’re using your medicines to best effect
  • chlamydia screening services

How do I find out what services each pharmacy provides?

If you are looking for a particular service it is best to contact the pharmacy first of all to make sure they offer that service. You can search for the pharmacy nearest to you by using the ‘Find your nearest service’ search to the right. The search results will display the different ways you contact the pharmacy including telephone number, email address or website if applicable. Alternatively, the NHS Choices website gives details of the facilities offered by pharmacies across the country.

How much will I pay for a prescription?

The cost of prescriptions is set by the Government and for 2016 this is £8.40 per item. If you are exempt from paying for your prescriptions please remember to take proof along to the pharmacy. If a pharmacy is not sure you are exempt from charges they can ask that you pay the fee which you will then have to produce proof of exemption to claim back.

Things to remember

Your community pharmacist should be your first port of call when you’re looking for general health and medicines advice. They can help you to treat common illnesses yourself without the need for a trip to the GP surgery or a prescription. Pharmacists can give you free, professional advice about most conditions as well as recommend over-the-counter medications that may cost much less than a prescribed alternative. They can also give advice about any side-effects of treatments as well as about what drugs and treatments can be used together.

Many pharmacies offer prescription collection and delivery services to make it even easier for you to get hold of your prescribed medicines. You might find this particularly useful if you have medications prescribed on a repeat prescription with your GP surgery. However, you should make sure that you only reorder items that you need, and not ‘stock pile’ lots of medicines. Once medicines have been dispensed by a pharmacist they can never be reused, even if you’ve not opened the packaging – they can only be treated as waste, and research done by the Department of Health in 2007 predicted that waste medicines cost the NHS over £100 million pounds each year.