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Just 58% of patients go to their pharmacy for a minor illness, study finds

Only around half of patients would attend their pharmacy if they had a minor illness, a new study has found.

The survey of 200 UK adults, conducted by pharmacy app Charac last week (March 15), found that awareness of the services pharmacies offer is as low as 13% in some cases.

Charac – an app allowing pharmacies to manage prescriptions and consultations digitally – announced the findings this week (March 20), which showed that:

  • 58% of respondents had gone to their pharmacy for minor illnesses services

  • 47% had attended for repeat prescriptions

  • 28% had gone for flu vaccination

  • 22% had gone for COVID jabs.

The data also revealed that 57% of respondents would “go to [their] pharmacy over [their] GP” for minor illnesses.

Read more: Pharmacy app secures million-pound Royal Mail investment

This was the only service that more than half of respondents said they would choose their pharmacy over their GP for, aside from repeat prescriptions (53%).

Meanwhile, 41% and 39% said they would attend their pharmacy for flu or COVID jabs respectively rather than their GP.


Service awareness “worryingly low”


Awareness of services in the first place was also “worryingly low”, with only four out of 15 potential services known by the majority of respondents, it said.

Almost two-thirds (65%) were aware of pharmacy minor illness services, 59% knew of repeat prescriptions, 56% knew of emergency contraception services and 55% knew of flu jabs, the study found.

But less than half of respondents reported awareness of all the other services, including stop smoking (43%) and weight management (20%) services, blood pressure and cholesterol testing (43%) and COVID-19 vaccinations (49%).

Read more: PSNC: Pharmacy First must not be left to ‘piecemeal’ local commissioning

Awareness of chlamydia screening and treatment services were lowest at 13%.

On a positive note, 50% of respondents scored their satisfaction with their pharmacy’s services as five stars – the highest rating available – while a third (33%) gave a score of four stars.

But Charac warned that while satisfaction remains high, patients “evidently remain hesitant to use pharmacies as the first port of call”. 


Patient confidence "low"


Santosh Sahu, founder and CEO of Charac, said that “though it is great to see patients largely very happy with the services provided by their pharmacies, it’s clear that patient confidence in various services other than prescriptions is low”.

“To push a ‘pharmacy first’ policy, more must be done to provide pharmacies with better resources and increase patient confidence,” he added. 

Read more: Pharmacy First service ‘most likely’ route to new funding, PSNC boss predicts

In October, a National Pharmacy Association (NPA) survey found that only 56% believe that pharmacies in England offer consultations for those who are prescribed a new medicine for a long-term condition and 52% didn’t know that pharmacies in England offer NHS or private blood pressure monitoring services.

Charac, which is partnered with the NPA, announced that it had secured a £1 million investment from the Royal Mail Group in June.

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