What do people think of community pharmacists?
This is the question the Department of Health asked as part of their current consultation exploring ‘The Future of Community Pharmacy’.
As part of our work to understand people’s experiences of primary care services, we have explored the role that community pharmacists play in meeting people’s healthcare needs.
Polling by YouGov and Healthwatch England in 2015 found that:
- Three quarters of people say they would go to a pharmacist, rather than a GP, to get medication for a minor illness. Only 1 in 10 say they wouldn't.
- Over half would go to a pharmacist to seek advice for a specific minor illness or injury.
- A third of people would consider using a pharmacy instead of visiting a GP for general medical advice.
People told us that two major reasons why they are open to having pharmacies play a greater role in their health and care are trust and convenience.
People like and trust their pharmacists. During our research we spoke to a range of people, including young mums and people aged over 65, who told us about times when they felt their pharmacists had gone above and beyond their role, for example, in advising them to buy cheaper medication.
Similarly, Healthwatch Cornwall’s survey of 640 people found that 93% rated their pharmacists as polite and helpful, with 74% comfortable talking about their health and wellbeing with them.
People told local Healthwatch that they really appreciate the convenience offered by their local pharmacies. Healthwatch Bolton spoke with 106 local residents about their experiences and heard that people valued the responsiveness and ease of access of the local pharmacy services, their location opening times and the speed with which they are seen.
However, there’s still more that can be done to ensure the service meets people’s needs. For example, Healthwatch Suffolk uncovered confusion around the role of pharmacists and the range of services they offer. Of the 607 respondents to their survey, just under half (49%) thought that pharmacists were qualified to offer medical advice, with almost a third of respondents (29%) thinking the opposite.
This work has highlighted the need for better information to allow people to make informed choices about their healthcare needs, as well as the potential additional benefit that pharmacists can offer to patients, and to the NHS.
We have shared our findings with the Department of Health which is gathering people’s experiences to inform the future of community pharmacy. Find out more about the consultation here and contribute until 24 May 2016.
You can find out more about what local Healthwatch have heard about people's experiences of visiting pharmacies in our briefing.