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Lack of privacy stops 43% from seeking advice in pharmacy, survey finds

More than two fifths of patients would seek advice or medication for self-treatable conditions if there was more privacy in pharmacies, survey results shared exclusively with C+D have revealed. 

Consumer healthcare association PAGB commissioned the survey – which was completed by more than 2,000 adults in the UK – to understand patients’ attitudes towards self-care.

“Privacy concerns”, “no privacy for walk-in service” and pharmacists “already busy enough with current demand”, were some of the reasons cited by patients completing the survey.


Support for remote consultations


Respondents supported remote access to community pharmacy services.

More than a quarter (27%) said they would be more likely to seek advice from their local pharmacy if they could speak to them on the phone.

The poll also found that the number of respondents seeking advice from a pharmacist for self-treatable conditions had dropped to 44%, from the 47% recorded at the same time in 2021.

PAGB chief executive Michelle Riddalls told C+D that “this worrying decline suggests people are slipping back into pre-pandemic behaviours of relying on GPs and emergency services for self-treatable conditions”.


Support for change


This drop in demand emphasises “the existence of a number of barriers that prevent pharmacies from playing a bigger role”, according to the PAGB report based on the findings of its survey.

The survey findings also “suggest there is confusion around whether pharmacists can see medical records”, PAGB wrote in the report.

Of the 2,000 respondents, more than two thirds (67%) agreed that pharmacists should be able to “populate their medical records to mention the treatments they have provided”.

If implemented, this would encourage 23% of respondents to see a pharmacist, the report said.

Read more: Just 5% of PCNs currently on track to meet CPCS referral target

While some 69% of survey respondents “support the idea of GPs being able to make referrals to pharmacists”, just 18% of respondents had been referred by a GP or through NHS 111 to a pharmacist, according to the report.

Nevertheless, the PAGB report welcomed the planned expansion to the Community Pharmacist Consultation Service, which is expected to include referrals from urgent and emergency care settings from March 2023.


“Thousands of pharmacies are at risk of closure”


The PAGB argued in its report that “pharmacies have the expertise to support people to care for themselves” but they need to be adequately resourced to do this.

Insufficient resources are putting “thousands of pharmacies” at risk of closure, it warned.

“Should these closures take place, there would be a significant and detrimental effect on self-care”, it added.

Read more: Sector in crisis: Thousands of pharmacies at risk of closure as inflation bites

The government’s recent ‘Our Plan for Patients’ policy paper, acknowledged “pharmacists as the key workforce to help support people and protect NHS resources”, it also noted.

However, “the government must ensure that pharmacies have the resources they need to continue to do their work”, the report urged.

Last month, NHS BSA data revealed that the number of community pharmacies across England has dropped to its lowest figure since 2015, with 11,522 currently open.

This marks a 3.6% decrease on 2015/16 levels, when there were 11,949 community pharmacies.


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