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NPA survey: 89% of public saw pharmacy as ‘essential’ during pandemic

77% of respondents said face-to-face contact with a pharmacist is important
77% of respondents said face-to-face contact with a pharmacist is important

Nearly nine in 10 people believe community pharmacies are playing a crucial role during the COVID-19 pandemic, a National Pharmacy Association (NPA) survey has revealed.

An overwhelming majority (89%) of respondents to the NPA survey said community pharmacies have been “very essential” or “fairly essential” in offering health support to local communities during the pandemic.

Almost as many (81%) said they have a “favourable” view of pharmacists, up 15% on the last "comparable" NPA survey on public opinion in 2016. 

The survey, published yesterday, (July 9) also found that almost a fourth (22%) said their perception of pharmacies has improved during the pandemic. Reasons given for this included that pharmacy teams have offered a “good patient service,” “gone above and beyond,” “adapted well to coronavirus,” and provided “competent collection/delivery of prescriptions”.

Nearly all (92%) who took part in the survey– which ran June 5-8 and received responses from around 1,000 members of the public – said the NHS should consider pharmacists “high or medium priority for receiving personal protective equipment”.

Just over three quarters (77%) said it was “very important” or “fairly important” to be able to have face-to-face-contact with a pharmacist.

In a blog for C+D today (July 10), NPA chair Andrew Lane said this is “a reminder that the human touch matters in healthcare”.

Commenting on the findings yesterday, Mr Lane said: “This research shows not only the huge public support for pharmacists to play a greater role in the future of the NHS but also a strong attachment to neighbourhood services and the human touch in healthcare.”

“Bigger role” for pharmacies

The public is also in favour of a greater use of pharmacies and the abilities of their teams, with 73% suggesting pharmacies should offer more services to “alleviate pressure from other parts of the health service” and 84% agreeing that the NHS should collaborate with the government to “make greater use of pharmacists’ skills”.

In his blog for C+D today, Mr Lane said the “strength of public opinion in favour of pharmacies is very encouraging”.

Almost three quarters (74%) said pharmacies need to be “better integrated with other services, operating as neighbourhood health and wellbeing centres and providing face-to-face advice”.

Former health minister Jackie Doyle-Price MP said the number and location of community pharmacies “means they could play a much bigger role in tackling the NHS backlog, taking pressure off doctors and hospitals, and supporting public health.”

However, just 29% of respondents said they were “definitely aware” that pharmacists are part of the NHS, “leaving significant scope for improvement,” the NPA said.

Just 11% said they were in favour of “mass automation”, centralised dispensing and pharmacists working for the most part remotely or from GP practices.

Government COVID-19 loan

The public also supported the idea that the money the government has advanced to English pharmacies to alleviate cashflow pressures during COVID-19 – which at the time of the NPA survey amounted to £350 million – should be given to pharmacies as a grant, with 54% holding this position.

A further £20m was paid to English pharmacies as “advance funding” at the beginning of July.

“The £370m COVID crisis loans to pharmacists must be turned into a grant before it is too late. I call on the government to end the confusion around the loans and act now to save our pharmacies,” Mr Lane said.

How do you feel about the findings of this NPA survey?

Ex Pharmacist, Community pharmacist

This isn't news. The concerning fact is that the survey was even raised is obviously an essential service. We just won't be around much longer as a brick and mortar health service. Everything's online now. So will we be. Most will work in these giant PCN networks from some kind of back office GP lab rat and feel like they're making a difference just glad that they have a job earning them 45k until they retire at 65

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Who gets to retire at 65 nowadays?? I'm 55 now and I've got to go to 67! The newbies coming in are going to have to go on until they are at least 70 the way it's going. Someone is going to have to pay the Covid debt for decades to come.

Soon-To-Be Ex-Pharmacist, Superintendent Pharmacist

Is the Government paying any attention to this survey? Not a cat in hells chance.

Kevin Western, Community pharmacist

We have had similar results and other evidence presented over the years, but the DoH still needs us to "prove our worth", in other words they will wilfully ignore anything which gets in the way of paying us less every year.

sunil maini, Community pharmacist

C A.Agreed.however it is the ineptitude of PSNC why we are where we are


sunil maini, Community pharmacist

Mr Mustoe.I totally agree with what you have said.However  actions speak louder than words.Before moving on,let the past be sorted.Are you listening PSNC? All devolved countries within the UK  have received extra funding re covid 19 except for England.Why?

Adam Hall, Community pharmacist

I wonder if the public view is connected to their being unable to see their GP?


Joan Richardson, Locum pharmacist

My thoughts exactly.  We would appear to be the only health care professionals, outside hospitals, that are not in hiding!

C A, Community pharmacist

I've said for a while that the loan given to Pharmacy should be scrapped/turned into a grant. Though I hold that the ineptitude of the current government doesn't preclude them from forgetting to reclaiming the loan due to more pressing issues such as Brexit.

Michael Mustoe, Community pharmacist

Well, the NPA survey reinforces what we all already know. Community Pharmacy is crucial to the effective delivery of a high quality Health service, and intimately linked to that is the extent  and quality of delivery of Clinical services by Pharmacists in the community. Our patients appreciate our service and our expertise. We can contribute more. Let's move on quickly, and learn from the recent past. As a country we cannot afford to waste such readily available expertise

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