Pharmacy users in England are currently satisfied with pharmacy services, and would be comfortable with them providing certain new services, according to the Public Perceptions of Community Pharmacy Survey conducted by Ipsos for NHS England.
Use of community pharmacies
In England, small chain or independent pharmacies are the most commonly contacted or visited by the public (41%), followed by large or medium sized pharmacy chains (35%). However, their usage is not a frequent occurrence with only around one-quarter (26%) saying they contact or visit a pharmacy at least monthly, either for themselves or someone they care for. Meanwhile, one in five (20%) say they do not normally contact or visit a community pharmacy. In general, pharmacy users are habitual when it comes to contacting or visiting a pharmacy: around three-quarters (73%) say they tend to use the same community pharmacy.
Awareness and use of pharmacy services
Pharmacies are known to offer a multitude of services; primarily, providing medicines prescribed by a doctor (78%), selling medicines like paracetamol or eye drops to treat minor illness (72%), and providing advice, about both medicines (64%) and about minor health problems (61%). Indeed, of the various health services or sources of information available , the public identify pharmacies as the organisations they would be most likely to go to if they needed information and advice on medicines (68%) or information and advice on a minor condition such as a sore throat or earache (54%).
In line with this, when asked what services community pharmacies should offer (outside of the obvious services, like dispensing prescribed medicines), the key services identified are providing advice about both minor health problems (71%) and medicines (67%). However, these are closely followed by a number of routine services that are currently primarily viewed as services provided by GP practices, such as offering flu vaccines (64%) and checking blood pressure (64%). This suggests that there is public appetite for using community pharmacies for some functions they would currently be seen as the domain of GP practices, representing a clear opportunity for expanding the services pharmacies offer.
Confidence and satisfaction with community pharmacies
Pharmacy users in England report positive experiences of community pharmacies. For example, on their last visit to a community pharmacy, most feel they were treated with respect (87%), were able to get what they needed (87%) and thought that the facility was clean and well maintained (87%).
Similarly, those who have used a pharmacy in the last year for advice about medicines, a health problem or injury, or what health service they should use, are overwhelmingly positive about the quality of the advice that they received. Nearly all (91%) say that they received good advice and just 3% say that it was poor.
There are high levels of confidence in a pharmacist prescribing medication independently of a doctor or nurse when prescribing medicines a person has had before (77%) and for medication they are currently prescribed (70%). However, this confidence falls to 56% if the medication being prescribed is something they have not taken before.
Level of comfort with new pharmacy services
In general, the public would feel comfortable with community pharmacies offering the new services that were asked about, though there is some variation.
- Amongst smokers, 85% would feel comfortable being referred by an NHS service to a community pharmacy for regular support to stop smoking
- Nearly all of the public (90%) say they would feel comfortable seeing a community pharmacist for a minor illness such as an earache, having spoken to the GP receptionist, instead of organising an appointment with their GP.
- Similarly, most (90%) would be comfortable with being referred to a pharmacist for an appointment on the same day to discuss a minor illness following an online consultation with a nurse or GP.
- The public are a little less comfortable with community pharmacy staff supporting them to lose weight, if they wanted to lose weight – though still three-quarters say they would feel comfortable with this (75%).
- Just over half (55%) would be comfortable with a proactive approach by community pharmacy staff to suggesting a conversation about how to manage their weight.
This survey was conducted via the UK KnowledgePanel. It has 25,000 panellists who are recruited using off-line random probability unclustered address-based sampling, meaning that every household in the UK has a known chance of being selected to join the panel.
The survey was conducted between 21st and 27th July 2022. A total of 3,402 respondents were selected and invited to take part in the survey number of which 2,067 responses were achieved amongst residents across England aged 16+, representing a response rate of 61%.
In order to ensure the survey results are as representative of the target population as possible, the weighting was applied to the data in line with the target sample profile.
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