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Public ‘overwhelmingly’ backs Pharmacy First, PSNC survey reveals

A survey commissioned by the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) has revealed strong public support for a Pharmacy First approach, the negotiator has said.

PSNC today (March 31) revealed the results of its YouGov survey, which polled 1,774 adults in England earlier this month.

It found that almost seven in ten (68%) agreed they would “find it easier” to seek health advice for common conditions such as skin conditions or indigestion at a community pharmacy rather than a GP surgery, PSNC said.

And three-quarters (75%) of respondents said they “would like to see community pharmacies offering more healthcare services such as treating urinary tract infections or sore throats”, it added.


Concerns over closures


The survey also showed “how many people would be concerned by any pharmacy closures”, PSNC said.

When asked how important the services provided by community pharmacies to them, their family or community are, 78% of respondents said they were “very important”, while just 14% said they weren’t important.

On closures, 77% said they would be “very concerned” if the pharmacy they use most often were to close permanently.


“Overwhelming” support


PSNC said that the poll showed the “strength of public support for pharmacies” and that they “overwhelmingly back Pharmacy First”.

It reiterated calls for a “financial injection to stabilise the sector and enable pharmacies to keep their doors open”, warning that without this, “more unplanned closures” are “increasingly likely”.

This “[runs] the risk of reduced access to vital services for patients”, as the pharmacies that are left “will not have sufficient resources to help all the patients displaced by closures”, the negotiator said.

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

“If the government commits to a fully funded Pharmacy First service, it could build positively on the contributions pharmacies make in local communities and, with adequate funding, alleviate wider pressures in the primary care system and the NHS,” it added.

And it said that it hoped a fully funded Pharmacy First service “will be included” in the government’s upcoming primary care recovery plan, adding that it “[understands] the approach is supported by ministers”.


Government “must listen”


PSNC chief executive Janet Morrison said that the survey’s results “will come as no surprise to anybody working in community pharmacy”.

“The public value their local pharmacies and want to see them doing even more to support their health,” she added.

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

But she said that “having the data to prove this is incredibly important and allows us to once again to show the government and the NHS how important pharmacies are and how much people want to go on using them”.

“They must listen to the voice of the public and step in not only to save pharmacies, but to allow them to build on their successes during the pandemic to offer a national Pharmacy First service,” she added.

Read more: Local Pharmacy First scheme in place for 20 years to be axed this month

The negotiator has said that a national Pharmacy First service “is the best chance for getting significant additional funds into community pharmacies”.

But sector leaders have also indicated that the government’s primary care recovery plan, expected “imminently”, could see Pharmacy First services commissioned locally instead.

Meanwhile, a small study indicated earlier this month that public awareness of pharmacy services is “worryingly low”, with only around half saying they would attend their pharmacy if they had a minor illness.

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