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Changing perceptions, what else can be done?

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I remember sitting in an IPKAS module (Integrated Pharmaceutical Knowledge and Skills) lecture on the public’s perception of pharmacists. The word that seemed to be most closely linked to pharmacists was “shopkeeper”. Inevitable muttering spread across the hall and to me this was no surprise. Here we are studying a four year course which contains copious amounts of information to digest which will still be the case once we have registered as new drugs and new forms of disease constantly arise and still we receive such little recognition?  

In a YouGov poll taken in late 2013 over 2,000 people, less than one-third of the public were aware of what pharmacists could offer and only 48% knew that their pharmacist could advise on minor ailments. I will concede efforts have been made to emphasise the worth of pharmacists and ease the stress on GPs in providing healthcare to the greater public through new services such as minor ailments, blood pressure and heart rhythm consultations and a lot of the praise for the furthering of the reputations of pharmacists as competent providers of healthcare should go to Pharmacy Voice.

However, obstacles are still present and that leaves the question what else can be done to change public opinion on pharmacists? Yes, I settle on the fact that it should be mainly the pharmacists’ responsibility to highlight the services they can provide, but I believe there is a greater need for collaboration, and thus I feel that GPs should also take a minor role in highlighting services that a pharmacist could provide during consultations which could have been dealt with faster at their local pharmacy. The same could be done once again at A&E departments in hospitals. My reasoning is based on the assumption that public opinion shares the view that doctors are the frontline of healthcare and thus they would have a pivotal role in persuading patients to use their local pharmacies for minor ailments as well as other services such as vaccinations.

On the other hand, I reluctantly acknowledge that maybe the retail aspect of community pharmacy will always divide public opinion on pharmacists and be the possible cause for the “shopkeeper” stereotype. In the end I will always find it unfortunate that there is a lack of awareness on the scope of pharmacist’s involvement in healthcare, from hospital to the pharmaceutical industry.

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