Saying 'no'

Last updated: Tuesday, September 22, 2015

This isn’t always easy. In the scenario about priorities, you might have to say ‘no’ to the doctor’s request for immediate information if you don’t think it’s urgent enough. Here are bad ways to say ‘no’:

  • No, I can’t do that I’ve got too much going on.
  • I can’t help you there. I’ve never heard of that. I've got to go.


An important aspect of successfully saying ‘no’, is not to leap in with an immediate ‘no’ but to be respectful of the other person's agenda, and to be polite. A good technique is to give the reason for declining, before you decline:

  • I do apologise but I’m the only pharmacist on duty this morning and I can’t leave the dispensary right now…
  • I’m a new member of the team here and I’ve not come across this before. I know you need an answer quickly, so…

The second example acknowledges the fact that the doctor wants a quick answer. So it shows that the pharmacist recognises the importance of the request: it’s not being dismissed.

Once you’ve explained your decision, you should try to signpost the person to other sources of help if you can or offer assistance that you think is more appropriate.

  • Would you mind bleeping our Medicines Information Pharmacist on 1234, and they will be able to help you.
  • I’ll look this up when I go off duty at 12 o’clock and get back to you as soon as I can.

So if you need to say ‘no’ to a request then be polite, explain your reasons, and signpost.