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“I Care For You”, that’s the slogan of this year’s World Pharmacists Day (September 25) and I think many would agree that pharmacists nowadays, whether online or on the high street, are invaluable members of the healthcare community.

They are highly trained and are often the first port of call for non-emergency medical matters, from coughs to sore throats.

But it’s a relatively new phenomenon and just over a century ago there was no such thing as a pharmacist. We had apothecaries, chemists and druggists.

It was with the birth of the welfare state and the introduction of National Insurance in 1911 that the doctor and chemists we see today began to evolve. Back in the day, prescriptions were handwritten in Latin and pharmacists prided themselves on being able to translate them!

With the advent of the NHS in 1948 and increase of drug choices both doctors and pharmacists had to become more knowledgeable and by 1967, pharmacists had to have a relevant degree.

Experts in medicine

Now they are experts in medicines and will use their clinical expertise and practical knowledge to advise on common problems such as coughs, colds, aches and pains, as well as healthy eating and stopping smoking.

They can also advise on whether they think you need to see a doctor. (Pharmacy2U.co.uk has a dedicated web page for patients looking for help and support)

Electronic prescriptions

With most of England’s GPs now using electronic prescriptions, it’s amazing how much has changed in the service pharmacists now offer. You can get NHS repeat prescriptions delivered to your home or work, in fact anywhere you want, without even having to venture out to the chemist or doctors, saving valuable time.

Prescribed medication can be ordered in advance if you’re travelling and you can even get reminders when you’re running low on supplies, meaning it’s easier to stay organised if you’re on lots of different medications.

Saving time and money for patients and doctors

That’s all good news for the 21 million English patients on prescriptions as these advances have been a godsend in saving time and money for patients and doctors.

The latest statistics show that it can take nearly a fortnight to get a routine doctor’s appointment that’s for a non-emergency.

Pulse magazine quizzed 831 doctors and around 41% of GPs who answered the question said that the wait was longer than two weeks, with 15% saying it was longer than three weeks.

Advances in technology also mean there’s a lot you can do over the counter or online nowadays without having to go to a doctor’s surgery, including an online consultation.

World Pharmacists Day is September 25.

Dr Alexandra Phelan is a working NHS GP and member of the Pharmacy2U Online Doctor service team.