What can I expect from my pharmacist?

Pharmacists are primarily trained in medicines use. They add expert insight and skills when medicines are used to treat, prevent, or manage health conditions. They also have a broad knowledge of common health conditions and how the human body functions. Pharmacists must complete a four-year degree and a one-year period of supervised workplace training under an experienced pharmacist to register in their own right. However, the learning does not end there; all pharmacists are required to engage in continuing professional development that ensures that their knowledge and skills remain relevant to current practice.

Pharmacists work in a wide range of roles, but most people will have contact with their pharmacist in a community pharmacy setting. In this setting, retail staff, pharmacy technicians, and pharmacy accuracy checking technicians often support the pharmacist, but it is ultimately the responsibility of the pharmacist to ensure that the health services provided to you are safe and effective.

Pharmacists in community settings may offer a variety of health services:

  • Assessment and treatment for minor health conditions
  • Dispensing of prescription medicines
  • Advice on how to take medicines for maximum benefit
  • Administration of some vaccinations
  • Health screening tests (e.g., blood pressure testing, blood glucose testing, blood cholesterol testing)
  • Safe disposal of excess or expired medicines

Pharmacists apply annually for a practising certificate. The Pharmacy Council will only issue a certificate if it is assured the pharmacist is competent and fit to practise (i.e. meeting continuing professional development requirements, fitness to practice declaration).

This is one mechanism that the Pharmacy Council uses to assure members of the public that their pharmacist is able to provide services to expected levels of quality and safety. You can check the practising status of any pharmacist on the online register of pharmacists.

As a registered health practitioner, pharmacists must behave professionally with the patient’s best interests in mind, while working to legal and ethical obligations. The Pharmacy Council sets standards for pharmacists’ practice. These expected levels of practice have been grouped under the six following themes. A full description of these standards can be found in the Competence Standards for the Pharmacy Profession.

  1. Professionalism in Pharmacy
    • You will be able to access a registered pharmacist whenever the pharmacy is open
    • You will be respected, and your pharmacist will use their knowledge and professional judgement to act in your best interests
    • Your pharmacist will practise according to the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi
    • Your pharmacist will behave professionally in their work, personal and online environments
  2. Communication and collaboration
    • Your dignity, privacy, and confidentiality will be maintained
    • You will be listened to so that your circumstances and concerns are understood
    • You have the right to include whānau or other support in your care
    • Your pharmacist will collaborate with other health providers to optimise your healthcare
    • Any concerns or complaints you have will be taken seriously and acted on
    • If something is not right with your medicines, your pharmacist will work with you to find a solution
  3. Health and medicine management
    • You will be provided with unbiased, evidence-based information on your health conditions and treatment options
    • Your pharmacist will use their knowledge and judgement so that you can have confidence in the products and services recommended for you
    • If your pharmacist does not think the treatment requested is the best option for you, they may recommend an alternative treatment
    • If your pharmacist does not offer a specific pharmacy service, they will help you find an alternative provider
  4. Public healthcare
    • You will receive information on how to self-manage or control your health condition
    • Your pharmacist will help you access other healthcare resources or support programmes
  5. Supply and administration of medicines
    • You will receive medicines that are accurately dispensed, safe, and of good quality
    • You will be provided with advice necessary to help you take your medicines appropriately (see Medicines Information below)
  6. Leadership and organisational management
    • You will be provided with a safe and comfortable environment consistent with a space dedicated to healthcare
    • Pharmacy staff will have the appropriate qualifications, abilities, and experience to provide you with safe and effective care

Medicines information

If not used properly medicines can be harmful. Because of this, you should leave the pharmacy feeling comfortable that you understand how to use the selected treatment. If unsure, ask your pharmacist:

  • What is the name of the medicine and what does it do?
  • What is the dose of the medicine (How much? How often? For how long?)
  • How long it will take for the medicine to start working and how do I know if it is working?
  • Should this medicine be taken with or without food?
  • What should I do if I forget to take a dose?
  • What side-effects should I watch out for?
  • What should I do if I feel better and do not want to finish taking all of it?
  • What should I do if it does not seem to be working?
  • Is it okay to take with other medicines, alcohol, or natural remedies?
  • Is it safe to use if I am pregnant or breastfeeding?

I am Concerned about the Service I Received from a Pharmacist

If you are unhappy with a health service received from a pharmacist, you should first talk to them about your concerns. Your pharmacist will take your concerns or complaint seriously and, in most cases, open communication can clarify any issues and lead to a solution.

If this does not result in a satisfactory result or if you feel uncomfortable approaching the pharmacist directly, you may make a formal complaint to the Health and Disability Commissioner. The Health and Disability Commissioner will decide whether your complaint will be investigated and whether your rights under the Code of Consumers’ Rights have been breached.

If you have concerns about a pharmacist’s physical or mental ability to practise safely, you can notify the Pharmacy Council. As a member of the public you may notify the Council of your concerns, but it is often useful to talk to another pharmacist about these before you make a formal notification. To find out more about lodging a complaint or raising concerns please visit our website.