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What can a pharmacist do for your parent?

Pharmacists can do more for our parents now than ever. Whilst they don’t offer the same expertise as a doctor they can certainly ensure that our parents are living well and managing their medication successfully.

We explore the ways in which pharmacists can help our parents with their pills and prescriptions.

Different types of pharmacist

A “Chemist” by any other name is simply a “Pharmacist” – both fulfil exactly the same role in your parent’s healthcare. Generally there are two types of pharmacists – community and hospital.

Community pharmacists are responsible for dispensing both prescription and non-prescription medicines as well as providing over-the-counter advice on medicines and possible side effects.

Hospital pharmacists are responsible for patients’ prescriptions, dispensing medicines as part of treatment plans prescribed by the attending medical staff.


Since 2002 pharmacists have had the power to prescribe medicine to patients helping them to avoid revisiting their doctors to renew prescriptions. There are various types of prescribers – independent and supplementary – who’re able to continue your parent’s clinical care after diagnosis.

Pharmacists can prescribe any medicine within their competence as well as some controlled medicines for which your parent is likely to be asked for proof of identity before they can collect them. Parents aged 60 and over should receive their prescriptions free of charge on the NHS.

Collecting prescriptions

You parent should be able to collect their prescription from their local pharmacy or doctor’s surgery. Some pharmacies will collect prescriptions from your parent’s local GP surgery on their behalf in order to quickly fulfil the prescription. Your parent’s prescription is valid for six months from the date it was signed allowing them to collect their medicine when it’s most convenient.

If you’re collecting your parent’s prescription on their behalf you’ll usually be asked to confirm their name and address as well as prove that you have your parent’s permission to do so. Some surgeries may also ask to see some ID.

Repeat prescriptions for long-term conditions

If your parent is taking medication for a long-term condition they’ll be given a repeat prescription by their GP which can last up to a year. If your parent gives their GP permission to share information with their local pharmacy, their pharmacist will be able to regularly dispense the prescription without your parent visiting their GP beforehand.

Electronic prescriptions

The Electronic Prescription Service (EPS) is due to replace our current paper-based system and allow your parent’s prescription to be sent directly from their GP to the pharmacy of their choice. Not only will this mean your parent won’t have to visit their surgery just to collect their prescription but it also ensures that their prescription information is accurately entered into the system by the GP.

Home delivery

If your parent is unable to pick up their prescription from the local pharmacy or GP surgery it may be that they can arrange for them to be delivered.

Minor ailments service

Your parent’s pharmacy may run a Minor Ailments Service which provides assessment of and treatment for various conditions such as skin conditions and joint pains without having to see a GP.

Medicines review

Whether your parent has just started taking medicine or has a long prescription list it’s important to review the medicine they’re taking as not all are meant to be taken long term. If your parent’s pharmacy offers this service they can request a consultation to answer any questions or concerns they have about their medicine.

A Medication Review allows the pharmacist to adjust your parent’s dosage or do away with prescriptions that are no longer necessary. They can also give support when your parent is starting new medication.

Disposing of old medicines

If your parent has unwanted, left over or out-of-date medication they should take it to their local pharmacy to be disposed of safely. Unused prescriptions should never be thrown away with household waste.

Easy to access containers

If your parent has trouble managing their medicines their pharmacist may be able to dispense their prescription into a pill box, or you can buy specialist pill boxes to manage dispensing pills at the right time.  There are a number of different types of boxes that can suit different needs:

  • Simple boxes or pill wallets that organise pills by the week or month
  • Pill boxes with integrated alarms to remind people to take their pills
  • Automated pill dispensers, particularly useful for those living with dementia. These are lockable to deter people from accessing pills they shouldn’t. Fill the dispenser and set when the pills need to be dispensed. When the alarm sounds, the patient simply turns the box over to cancel the alarm and dispense the pills.

 If someone is purchasing for a person with a chronic illness, such as dementia, they may be able to claim VAT relief, normally charged at 20%.

It may be worth asking your parent’s pharmacist to provide you with large-print labels to stick on their pill box so your parent can clearly see their pill regiment as well as the dosage instructions.

Problems with swallowing – swap to liquid

Problems swallowing medication can mean that your parent stops taking their prescription altogether. To avoid this make sure they talk to their pharmacist about the possibility of swapping their pills for something pourable. Whilst not all medicines will be available in a liquid form some may at least be soluble.

Reducing falls

If your parent has been falling more frequently it could be a result of their medication and not a symptom of getting older. They can ask their pharmacist for a medication review if they’re concerned their prescription is causing them to fall.

Your parent’s pharmacist may also offer a drop-in falls service which could include anything from medication reviews and walking stick MOTs to blood pressure checks and footwear assessments.

How to complain about a pharmacist

A pharmacist should be registered with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) before they can work independently. If you, or your parent, are concerned about the behaviour or qualifications of their pharmacist you can search to see if they’re GPhC registered to ensure peace of mind and professionalism.


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