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Pharmacy First

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With Pharmacy First, our pharmacists have undergone further training to be able to offer you a range of advice and treatment options for seven common conditions, even prescription medicines, if appropriate. 


What is the new NHS Pharmacy First Service?

The Pharmacy First[1] scheme is an NHS program that aims to provide professional healthcare advice and treatment for seven common ailments via your in-store or online pharmacy - like us!

This service eases the pressure on GP surgeries while also providing you with a convenient alternative to access treatment and advice whenever you need it, without waiting for a GP appointment.

Does this mean I shouldn’t visit my GP as often?

The introduction of Pharmacy First means that you won’t need to visit your GP for the seven conditions pharmacists are now able to offer advice and treatment for. 

However, we understand that some people will always prefer to see their GP for different reasons. The goal is to make NHS services more available, offer more choices, and make it easier to get help.

There are more pharmacies than GP offices, making it possible for people to access advice and treatment locally or even online, in just a few clicks. 

It can be tricky to get a same-day appointment with a GP. So, for these common issues, lots of people might choose to talk to a pharmacist for quick care instead of waiting for a GP appointment, which could make things worse.

What are the benefits of the Pharmacy First Service?

Pharmacy First offers a faster and more convenient way to access healthcare, bypassing the need for a GP appointment or hospital visit. This service also supports the NHS by freeing up GP and hospital appointments for individuals with more urgent needs.

For you, this means:

  • Easy and convenient access to advice and treatment
  • No appointment needed
  • Bypass GP waiting times

How can I access this service?

To access the Pharmacy First Service with us, you’ll select one of the conditions (we’re unable to offer advice and treatment for earache) and have a brief pre-consultation to see if you’re eligible. If you’re eligible, you’ll get a video call from one of our trained pharmacists. 

During this video call, the pharmacist will ask you questions about your symptoms, medical history and current medications. After assessing your condition, they'll provide advice on managing it at home and may offer medication to treat it, free of charge if you qualify for free prescriptions. 

If your condition is more serious or requires further investigation, they may refer you to another healthcare professional, such as your GP, a nurse, or a specialist. If we’ve recommended treatment, we’ll ship it directly to your door for free.

What does the NHS Pharmacy First Service cover?

Pharmacy First offers quick access to timely advice and treatment, including prescriptions if needed, for seven common health issues. We’ll list the seven conditions below and their criteria, helping you to understand whether you’re able to use this scheme.

Pharmacy First: the 7 common conditions


Symptoms of a urinary tract infection (UTI)[2] typically include a frequent and urgent need to pee, along with a burning sensation during peeing. Women may also experience pelvic pain and discomfort, as well as cloudy or strong-smelling urine.

How Pharmacy First can help with UTIs

Pharmacy First is able to treat uncomplicated UTIs in women between the ages of 16 to 64, if it’s appropriate. If you suspect a UTI and you’re a man or a catheter wearer, it’s advised that you seek advice and further treatment from your GP.


Shingles[3], caused by the varicella-zoster virus, typically begins with pain, burning, or tingling sensations in a specific area of the skin, followed by a rash consisting of red, fluid-filled blisters. Additional symptoms may include fever, headache, fatigue and sensitivity to light.

How Pharmacy First can help with shingles

Pharmacy First is able to offer advice and treatment if you’re over the age of 18 for shingles, including prescription treatments, if needed. 


Impetigo[4], a contagious bacterial skin infection, typically starts with red sores or blisters that burst and form a honey-coloured crust. These lesions can be itchy and spread rapidly across the body, causing swelling and redness in the surrounding skin. Some individuals may experience tenderness or pain at the site of the sores.

How Pharmacy First can help with impetigo

Through Pharmacy First, we’re able to offer impetigo treatment and advice to those aged 1 and over, including prescription treatment, if appropriate, without the need to visit the GP.

Infected insect bites 

Insect bites and stings are common, especially if you’ve visited woodland or grassy areas - and they can feel itchy, too! But when we itch, it’s more likely that these bites and stings can become infected as you’re exposing the wound to bacteria. 

Symptoms of an infected insect bite can include redness, swelling, warmth and tenderness around the bite area. You may also notice pus or fluid drainage from the bite site. The skin around the bite may become increasingly painful or develop a raised, red bump.

How Pharmacy First can help with infected insect bites

Pharmacy First offers advice and treatment for infected insect bites for those aged 1 and over, including prescription treatment if necessary.

Sore throat 

Sore throat[5] symptoms typically include pain, scratchiness or irritation in the throat, making it uncomfortable to swallow or talk. The throat may appear red or swollen, and you might notice white patches or pus on the tonsils. 

Some individuals experience swollen glands in the neck, hoarseness, coughing, or a low-grade fever accompanying the sore throat. In cases of viral infections like the common cold or flu, other symptoms such as congestion, runny nose and sneezing may also be present.

How Pharmacy First can help with a sore throat

With Pharmacy First, those aged 5 years and over are able to access advice and treatment, including prescription treatment, for a sore throat if needed.


Sinusitis[6], an inflammation of the sinus cavities, causes symptoms such as facial pain or pressure, particularly around the forehead, cheeks and eyes. Individuals with sinusitis may experience nasal congestion, difficulty breathing through the nose, and thick nasal discharge, which can be yellow or green in colour. 

Headaches, toothaches and a reduced sense of smell or taste are also common. Fatigue, coughing, and a sore throat may accompany sinusitis, especially if it's caused by a viral infection. 

How Pharmacy First can help with sinusitis

Pharmacy First can offer treatment and advice for sinusitis in those aged 12 years and over, including prescription treatments, where appropriate. 


Earache[7] symptoms typically include pain or discomfort in one or both ears, which can range from mild to severe and may worsen when lying down or chewing. 

There may also be a feeling of fullness or pressure in the ear, difficulty hearing or ringing in the ears (tinnitus), and dizziness. Earaches can be accompanied by drainage from the ear, fever, swelling and redness around the ear.

How Pharmacy First can help with earache

Being an online pharmacy, we’re unable to offer any advice or treatment for earache.

However, if you visit an in-store pharmacy, the Pharmacy First scheme enables you to access advice and treatment for those aged between 1 and 17, including prescription earache treatments, if they’re needed.

James O'Loan Pharmacy First Quote

Who can use the Pharmacy First Service?

Pharmacy First is available to anyone registered with a GP in England and holding a valid NHS number. Accessing the service doesn't require a prescription or an appointment.

The criteria for the Pharmacy First Service

Each of the seven conditions included in the Pharmacy First scheme have a certain age criteria in order for you to be able to access advice and treatment. Some conditions themselves have a criteria, too, for example, if you’re looking for advice and treatment for a UTI, you also have to be a woman and a non-catheter wearer. 

This is because if you’re a man or a catheter wearer, having a UTI would be more complex, meaning it would be safer and more effective for you to seek advice from your GP.

Can a pharmacist prescribe antibiotics?

Pharmacy First allows pharmacists to provide prescription-only medications, like antibiotics and antivirals when suitable, for treating seven common health conditions without patients having to see a GP.

The Pharmacy First Service isn't anticipated to lead to increased antibiotic prescriptions, and patients will continue to have consultations with pharmacists before receiving any medication. 

Medicine supply will be based on clinical suitability, following a shared discussion between the patient and pharmacist regarding the risks and benefits of treatment, as well as any other self-care alternatives.

Why aren’t diagnostic tests used as part of the Pharmacy First Service?

NHS England advises against pharmacists using diagnostic tests[8] like urine dipsticks or throat swabs for the Pharmacy First Service because there isn't enough proof that they're helpful. 

This means that if you’re choosing to use Pharmacy First through an online pharmacy like us, you’re getting the exact same advice and treatment as you would by going into an in-store pharmacy.

For checking UTIs, the national guidance says not to use dipstick tests if the patient has two or three main urinary symptoms and no other issues.

For sore throats, it’s advised that quick tests for strep throat aren't needed. Using clinical scoring tools like FeverPAIN[9] is enough.

Alexandra Moses - Medical Content Writer
James O'Loan - CEO & Superintendent Pharmacist
James O'Loan , CEO & Superintendent Pharmacist on 07 February 2024
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