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Getting the most out of your pharmacist

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Local pharmacists do a lot more than fill your script - they are qualified medicines experts who provide advice and counselling on medicines and general healthcare to millions of Australians every year.

How can community pharmacists help?

Australia's network of 5,500 community pharmacists are often patients' first point of contact with the health system. They supply medicines and check you have the correct dose; whether you have any allergies; whether you could have any other problems with the medicine; and they provide advice on how to use it safely.

Pharmacists work closely with GPs, specialists, allied health professionals and hospitals. They also offer a range of services to consumers, usually free of charge and without the need to make an appointment. Some of these services include:

  • Advice on medicines: Pharmacists advise on the best over-the-counter medicines for you, generic (cheaper medicines), and how to take your medicines safely. They may also be able to deliver medicines or supplies; for a small fee, help you manage your medicines better (such as by filling a blister pack to separate your medicines into the days and times you need to take them); and conduct a Home Medicines Review.
  • Healthcare advice: Pharmacists can help you with the treatment of minor ailments such as coughs and colds, post-natal care and pain management. They can also help you manage chronic conditions such as diabetes and asthma.
  • Advice on wound care: Pharmacists can help you manage minor injuries and show you how to apply dressings and compression garments.
  • Health checks and risk assessments: You can get your blood pressure, cholesterol or blood sugar tests (for diabetes) from a pharmacy. You should share the results with your GP promptly. Your GP is best placed to help you understand what they mean and to manage your ongoing health.
  • Vaccinations: Some appropriately trained pharmacists offer approved vaccinations, depending on which state or territory you live in. For information on vaccinations you can get at a pharmacy in your state, visit the Pharmacy Guild of Australia website.
  • Advice about children and babies: Pharmacists provide advice and products to help you treat common baby conditions such as nappy rash, eczema, cradle cap, constipation, pain and fever, and teething. Many pharmacies offer a baby care service to weigh and measure your baby. Some have qualified child health nurses available for consultation.
  • Self-care and lifestyle assessments: Pharmacists focus on wellness and keeping you out of hospital, for example with BMI checks and help to quit smoking.
  • Medical certificates: You can get a medical certificate for an absence from work from a pharmacist.
  • Sleep apnoea support: Pharmacists may be able to identify whether you're at risk of sleep apnoea, provide home-based sleeping tests and help you to use a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine.

How to find a pharmacist

You can search for your local pharmacy (sometimes called a chemist) at findapharmacy.com.au or search healthdirect's service finder to find pharmacies with extended opening hours near you.

What care do I need?

The Australian health system has many different types of service available to help you. Watch this video to learn about the most appropriate service for your health needs.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: November 2019


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