A “significant minority of customers”, particularly younger people, visit UK pharmacists for advice and services rather than to collect a prescription, according to a new study published in the International Journal of Pharmacy Practice.
Researchers from Liverpool John Moores University directly observed 3,651 activities by 3,299 customers in five pharmacies in areas of significant deprivation. The study, funded by Lundbeck, included two single independent pharmacies, two that were part of small groups of two to five pharmacies and one nationwide multiple with more than 100 outlets.
The pharmacies were sited among local shops, in health centres or in an out-of-town shopping centre. Collecting a prescription was the main reason for visiting the pharmacy (75.8 per cent) but dispensing prescriptions varied from 49.1 per cent of the activity in the national chain to 79.9 per cent in one of the health centre pharmacies. Retail sales of non-medicine products accounted for one in seven activities (14.2 per cent) and non-prescription medicines for one in 10 (9.3 per cent). About one in 20 customers sought advice (4.8 per cent) or accessed a service (4.4 per cent).
The national multiple showed the highest percentage of non-prescription medicine sales (18.5 per cent) and access to services (9.9 per cent). The out-of-town pharmacy showed the highest rate of non-medicine sales (18.5 per cent). Requests for services and advice were commonest among younger customers: 56.3 per cent of service requests were made by people aged 25-44 years.
“Our study shows that community pharmacy does quite a bit more than dispense prescriptions, with around one in four visits being for a reason other than to collect a prescribed medicine,” lead author Adam Mackridge, reader in public health pharmacy at Liverpool John Moores University told Pharmacy Magazine.
“It is notable that younger pharmacy customers appear to be using their pharmacy for a wider range of services than simple supply of prescribed medicines, suggesting a possible shift in the public’s use of community pharmacy.”
Community pharmacy does quite a bit more than dispense prescriptions
Dr Mackridge told PM that the findings could help inform the current debate regarding the future of community pharmacy. “Care is needed to ensure that the funding cuts don’t hit this wider remit at a time when GP and urgent care services are under significant strain,” he says.
“If pharmacies were to see funding cut to a level that restricted their service provision, such as through shorter opening hours, then the wider role they play in supporting patients to manage and protect their health and wellbeing may be put in jeopardy, to the detriment of society and other NHS service providers.”