Public Perceptions of Community Pharmacy 2023

The Public Perceptions of Community Pharmacy Survey 2023, conducted by Ipsos on behalf of NHS England (NHSE), explores the public usage and attitudes towards community pharmacy in England as well as their openness to expanding the services on offer from pharmacies.

The author(s)
  • Kate Duxbury Public Affairs
  • Katherine Fisher Public Affairs
  • Anita Jeffreson Public Affairs
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Pharmacy users in England continue to be satisfied with pharmacy services, and would be comfortable with them expanding into some new services according to the Public Perceptions of Community Pharmacy Survey 2023, conducted by Ipsos on behalf of NHS England (NHSE)

Use of community pharmacies

In England, visiting a community pharmacy is still not a frequent occurrence for the majority of the public. Just over one-quarter (29%) say they contact or visit a community pharmacy, either for themselves or someone they care for, at least monthly. In contrast, one in five (20%) say they do not normally contact or visit a community pharmacy. This is in line with 2022.

Pharmacy users in England tend to be habitual in their choice of pharmacy. Nearly three-quarters (71%) say they use the same community pharmacy each time. This is most commonly a small chain or independent pharmacy (42%), followed by large or medium sized chain pharmacies (36%).

Impact of pharmacy closures

Generally, pharmacy users have not experienced a pharmacy they have used in the past 12 months closing. Around four in five (81%) do not think that a pharmacy they have used has closed and only one in ten (12%) say they know of a pharmacy that has. The impact of these closures has not been immediate – only half (54%) of those who used a pharmacy that has now closed have found a new regular pharmacy.

However, the experience at these new pharmacies is worse. People who have had to choose a new regular pharmacy due to a closure report that their new one is more difficult to get to (50%), the opening hours are worse (41%) and that the service they receive is worse (35%). In contrast, a smaller proportion report that these areas are better; it is easier to get to (14%), the opening hours are better (14%) and the service is better (29%) (please treat results with caution due to small numbers of people who have moved to a new pharmacy as a result of closures).

Services on offer and access to prescriptions

Pharmacies are still known for providing a range of services, most commonly prescription medicines (78%), selling medicines like paracetamol or eye drops to treat a minor illness (75%) and providing advice about medicines (66%). In line with this, of the various health services or information sources presented to participants, the public identify pharmacies as the organisation they would be most likely to go to if they needed information and advice on medicine (73%) or if they needed information or advice about a minor health condition (58%).

Encouragingly, there is an increase in people claiming that they would go to pharmacies for certain services compared to 2022. For example, more people are claiming they would do to a pharmacy to get information and advice on medicines (73% in 2023, compared to 68% in 2022) as well as for a minor condition (58% in 2023, compared to 54% in 2022).

With collecting prescriptions being the most common reason for visiting, it is encouraging that pharmacies are increasingly performing well at notifying pharmacy users when prescriptions are ready. Just over two-thirds (68%) of pharmacy users say that their pharmacy performs well at letting them know when their prescription is ready, which is higher than in 2022 (63%). However, just over two-thirds of people who have used a pharmacy in the last year have experienced their prescription being out of stock (69%).

Confidence and satisfaction with community pharmacies

Pharmacy users in England report positive experiences of community pharmacies. For example, they report that they were treated with respect (90%), were able to get what they needed (87%), and were dealt with in a timely manner (78%). Almost nine in ten perceive the pharmacy facilities to have been clean and well maintained (89%).

However, a smaller proportion of people agree that they were given enough time to speak with someone at the pharmacy (77%), and that they were given the information or advice that they needed (80%). Over half agree that their privacy was maintained during their discussion with pharmacy staff (60%), though only one in five say that it was not maintained (20%).

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.

  • Current or former smokers say they would be comfortable being referred by an NHS service to a community pharmacy for regular support to stop smoking (81%).
  • Nearly all people in England (89%) say they would feel comfortable being referred to the pharmacy to treat a minor illness such as an earache, having spoken to a GP receptionist.
  • The majority of people in England (89%) say they would be comfortable with being given antibiotics by the pharmacist without needing to see a GP for a prescription first.
  • A majority of respondents (77%) say they would feel comfortable with a pharmacist referring them directly into cancer services, without seeing a GP first. Although still a majority, the public is less comfortable with this scenario.
  • Nearly all people in England (89%) would feel comfortable with a pharmacist offering to talk them through how to manage a new long-term medicine such as for high blood pressure. However, when this is medicine is positioned as an anti-depressant, the level of comfort drops – around three-quarters (76%) would be comfortable with this.
  • Four in five (80%) indicate that they would be comfortable with pharmacists changing and managing their medication for high blood pressure and its strength.

Ipsos Infographic: Public Perceptions of Community Pharmacy 2023

Ipsos Infographic: Public Perceptions of Community Pharmacy 2023. A snapshot of Ipsos’ 2023 research for NHS England exploring public perceptions of community pharmacy in England and the future services they may provide.

Technical details

This survey was conducted via the UK KnowledgePanel, a gold standard online random probability panel. Panellists 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.

Therefore, the KnowledgePanel does not use a quota approach when conducting surveys. Instead invited samples are stratified when conducting waves to account for any profile skews within the panel. The sample was stratified by education, meaning that panel members were ordered by their highest level of education prior to their random selection. The randomly selected sample then ensures adequate representation by education.

The survey was conducted between 15th and 21st June 2023. A total of 3,690 respondents were selected and invited to take part in the survey. The selected sample was then reviewed on key demographics to ensure a balanced sample was selected for the survey. A total of 2,082 respondents completed the survey, delivering a response rate of 56%.

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.

The author(s)
  • Kate Duxbury Public Affairs
  • Katherine Fisher Public Affairs
  • Anita Jeffreson Public Affairs

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