Pharmacy leaders have defended the profession against a consumer report's claims that two in five pharmacies are offering unsatisfactory advice on OTC medicines.
Pharmacy Voice and the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) said an undercover Which? investigation of 122 independent, multiple and supermarket pharmacies did not reflect the sector as a whole.
However, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) warned that the findings – which revealed that 43 per cent of pharmacies were giving out unsatisfactory advice by failing to ask necessary questions to check patient safety – included "some troubling results".
The GPhC and the RPS would be meeting pharmacy representatives and Which? in July to discuss how to improve the advice that patients receive in pharmacies, the RPS said.
GPhC chief executive Duncan Rudkin said the Which? findings included some "troubling results"
More on pharmacy standards
Which? mystery shoppers visited pharmacies over the course of a month, asking the pharmacist or a member of staff for the heartburn medication Pantoloc Control or the migraine drug Imigran Recovery, or complaining of persistent diarrhoea.
The shoppers gave the advice they received a satisfactory rating if the pharmacist or member of staff offered the minimum quality of advice to keep the patient safe, a good rating when more advice and explanation was given, or an unsatisfactory rating if insufficient questions were asked to check patient safety.
The 43 per cent of interactions rated unsatisfactory was nine percentage points higher than when Which? carried out a similar investigation in 2008.
Across all the pharmacies visited between January and February this year, two thirds of visits handled by members of pharmacy staff were unsatisfactory compared with a quarter managed by a pharmacist, according to results published today (May 20).
The report found that 58 per cent of the 48 independent pharmacies investigated gave unsatisfactory advice, compared to 34 per cent of pharmacy chain and supermarket branches.
The 12 supermarket pharmacies received the highest ratings. Of the 62 branches of large pharmacy chains, Lloydspharmacy received the highest rating and Rowlands Pharmacy received the lowest.
The IPF branded the findings "disappointing", but Pharmacy Voice chief executive Rob Darracott argued that the sample size was "not enough to make any meaningful comparisons between pharmacy groups, or types".
RPS president Martin Astbury said the results did not reflect the pharmacies he knew. However, he wanted to understand the "underlying reasons" for the results and "improve consistency of the advice the public receive" when they purchase medicines from pharmacy.
GPhC chief executive Duncan Rudkin said the investigation shone a light on "both good and bad practice in pharmacy" and included some troubling results about the quality of advice given on some visits.The GPhC's inspection standards, to be introduced this autumn, would help make sure standards "designed to safeguard patients are being met", he added.
C+D put the scenarios that Which? used in their investigation to our own experts – what would you have done?
What do you think about the Which? report's findings?