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Nearly half of patients ‘unaware’ of Pharmacy First, survey reveals

Almost half of the general public are “unaware” of Pharmacy First but most would use the service if it was clear what it offered and that pharmacy staff are “qualified”, new surveys have found.  

A poll of 2,028 pharmacy patients across England, Wales and Scotland found that 44% of them were “unaware of Pharmacy First” – which launches across England today (January 31).

The survey, conducted by pharmacy tech platform Charac and data company YouGov last week (January 24-25), also showed that only 23% of patients “are currently using pharmacies as their initial port of call for minor conditions” rather than their GP.

However, after being informed about the new service, which allows pharmacies to treat seven common conditions without the need for a GP appointment or prescription, the amount of patients who “would go to pharmacists over GPs rose to 56% for certain conditions”, Charac said today.

Director of membership at the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) Simon Tebbutt said the poll results show “that most people would be very happy to go to a pharmacy…when they know what a pharmacist can offer.”

The news comes as Pharmacy First was launched today (January 31) in “more than nine in ten community pharmacies in England”– 10,265 in total, according to NHS England (NHSE).


Must be “clear how qualified pharmacists are”


Meanwhile, a survey of 937 Superdrug patients released today (January 31) also showed that “people would be more willing to talk to their pharmacist” about Pharmacy First if they knew more about the service.

Superdrug’s poll of its Health and BeautyCard members, conducted last month, found that “two-thirds (67%) would consider the service if it was clear what services pharmacists can offer”.

The multiple said that of the almost 1,000 respondents, three-fifths (59%) would use Pharmacy First “if it was clear how qualified the pharmacists are to be able to help”.

It added that nearly three-quarters (73%) said they would consider the service if there is a private consultation room available, while 63% would use it if they could get a prescription quicker. 

Superdrug’s pharmacy superintendent Niamh McMillan said that “all pharmacists have undertaken at least four years of training at university and a further year of study after graduating before qualifying as a pharmacist”.

“Pharmacists are experts in medicines and…Pharmacy First is an excellent opportunity for pharmacists to utilise these skills and support the health of their local community”, she stressed.


“Cautious optimism and proactive support”


Seb James, managing director of Boots UK and ROI, said that the “launch of Pharmacy First in England is good for patients, pharmacy teams and GPs” by making it “quicker and easier” for patients to access care and allowing pharmacy teams to “further utilise their professional skills”.

“It is one of the most significant changes in how we can serve our customers and patients in [Boots’] 175-year history,” he added.

Company Chemists’ Association (CCA) chief executive Malcom Harrison told C+D today that the newly launched service “will dramatically help improve access for patients and will free up GP capacity at a critical time for the NHS”.

He added that the membership body hopes “that the service will be expanded in the future” and estimates an “ambitious” Pharmacy First service could free up 30 million GP appointments annually.  

Chief executive of the Proprietary Association of Great Britain (PAGB) - which represents manufacturers of over-the-counter (OTC) medications - Michelle Riddalls deemed Pharmacy First “an important step in giving people the tools they need to self-care”.

“Pharmacists are often under-utilised as highly trained healthcare experts”, she said, adding that the new service will “raise awareness of the specialist support that community pharmacists can provide”.

Bas Vorsteveld, vice president and general manager for Great Britain and Ireland for manufacturer Haleon, told C+D that the rollout of Pharmacy First “marks a major milestone in how healthcare is delivered at the community level in England”.

He said that the new service makes community pharmacies “even more central to the nation's health” and that support from “the wider healthcare industry” is “necessary…to ensure that these changes are sustainable and beneficial”.

“This year could be a turning point for pharmacies…[and] it is a development that warrants cautious optimism and proactive support from all stakeholders involved”, Mr Vorsteveld added.


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