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Nearly half of the general public wouldn't use a pharmacy for a minor ailment, report finds

A pharmacist in a consultation room looks at the minor ailments consultation records on a computer

Source: MAG / The Pharmaceutical Journal

A pharmacist in a consultation room looks at the minor ailments consultation records on a computer

Despite acknowledging the importance of self-care, many people say a pharmacy would not be their first port of call for advice on treating minor conditions, such as coughs and colds, a report from the Proprietary Association of Great Britain (PAGB) found.

In a survey of 5,011 adults aged from 18 to 75 years, the PAGB — a UK trade association that represents the manufacturers of branded over-the-counter medicines, self care medical devices and food supplements — nearly half (47%) said they would not visit a pharmacist first if they had a minor condition.

A third of those questioned said they would head straight to the GP, despite the fact that the vast majority (92%) agreed that people should take responsibility for their own health to reduce the burden on the NHS.

Among those who said they would not go to their pharmacist for help with minor illnesses, 18% said they did not believe pharmacists were as qualified as GPs or hospital staff. However, more than three quarters (80%) of those who took part in the survey said they thought GP and A&E services should only be used when absolutely essential.

As such, the results of the PAGB report suggests a disconnect between people’s good intentions on self-care and their actions in accessing NHS services.

John Smith, chief executive of PAGB, says the research highlighted a need to support people in feeling more confident about visiting the pharmacy for advice.

He adds that pharmacists are ideally placed to reduce pressures on stretched GP and A&E services. “However, we need to overcome the barriers to behaviour change through better education about the benefits of self care and ensuring people are consistently encouraged to take more responsibility for their health.”

The results come amidst calls for a national minor ailment scheme in pharmacies in England, much like the long-running scheme in Scotland.

Steve Riley, a community pharmacist, says the findings are worrying. “It is clear more needs to be done to raise awareness of the skills and expertise that pharmacists have.” He adds that pharmacists should signpost to other NHS services when needed.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2016.20201963

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