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Public visits independents more than multiples, reveals NHSE study

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Public visits independents more than multiples, reveals NHSE study

The public visit independent pharmacies and small chains more than large multiples and medium-sized groups in England, according to a study into patients’ perceptions of local pharmacies.

The online survey of 2,067 people aged 16 and over also revealed that nine in 10 people are happy with the advice they get from pharmacy teams.

The survey, which was commissioned by NHS England and carried out by Ipsos, found there was an “overwhelmingly positive” response about the quality of information provided by pharmacies, with 91 per cent of respondents saying they were given “good advice".

Forty-one per cent of respondents said they visited independents and small chains compared with 35 per cent who said they went to large or medium sized pharmacy chains.

The study also found people are generally comfortable using pharmacies for services outside of the dispensing of medicines. Eighty-five per cent of smokers said they felt comfortable being referred to a pharmacy for regular stop smoking support while 90 per cent of respondents said they are happy seeing a pharmacist for a minor illness rather than going to a GP.

A similar proportion said they are comfortable being referred to a pharmacist to discuss a minor ailment after having an online consultation with a GP or nurse.

Seventy-five per cent said they are happy to be supported by a pharmacy to lose weight and 55 per cent are comfortable with “a proactive approach” by pharmacy staff “to suggesting a conversation about how to manage their weight".

However, despite the value people put in community pharmacies, a report based on the study said the public did not use them frequently, with over a quarter of respondents saying they contacted or visited a pharmacy at least once a month and one in five saying they did not normally contact or go to a pharmacy. Three-quarters said they used the same pharmacy.

Nonetheless, 68 per cent of people regarded pharmacies as the places they were most likely to go for information and advice on medicines while 54 per cent said they would be their first port of call for minor ailments such as a sore throat or earache.

The survey also provided an insight into the types of services the public want pharmacies to offer. Seventy-one per cent and 67 per cent said they wanted advice on minor ailments and medicines respectively, while 64 per cent said they wanted pharmacies to provide flu vaccines and check blood pressure.

The report said this indicates “public appetite for using community pharmacies for some functions that would currently be seen as the domain of GP practices” and suggested there is “a clear opportunity for expanding the services pharmacies offer".

The study identified “high levels of confidence” in pharmacists prescribing medicines. Seventy-seven per cent and 70 per cent of respondents said they were happy for this to occur when prescribing a medicine a patient has had before and for a medicine they are currently being prescribed respectively. That fell to 56 per cent if a medicine being prescribed has never been taken by the patient.

Referencing a pilot in Cornwall this month where 20 pharmacies will look for signs of cancer by monitoring patients who consistently come in for cough medicine and other treatments and refer them to cancer services if necessary, the national medical director for England Stephen Powis said high street pharmacies “are playing an increasing role in protecting hundreds of thousands of people’s health".

“In the New Year, some pharmacists will be helping to spot the signs of cancer in a new trial, so when people pop in to get their cough medicine or have found blood in their urine, they will then directly refer them to hospital without needing to see their GP,” he said.

“Detecting cancer earlier is vital for giving people the best chance at having successful treatment – encouraging people who would not normally seek help is yet another example of the NHS doing all it can to make getting potentially lifesaving tests and checks as convenient as possible.”

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