Two of the biggest enemies faced by community pharmacies
The decision by Lloyds Pharmacy to close of all its 1,300 branches points to a sector which is creeping towards a potentially dangerous crossroad in its history. In an effort to enhance public perceptions around pharmacies, the Government earlier this year launched its own movie, with inspired ‘Help Us Help You’ adverts where people scream out for a pharmacist in response to the sight of a minor ailment.
In one memorable advert, a father dramatically leaps towards his child after he hears coughing and screams out ‘I need a pharmacist!’ Yet, our recent survey shows that if pharmacists are going to answer the NHS’s call to arms, more needs to be done to raise awareness around the services community pharmacies can provide.
50% of patients not aware of most services pharmacies provide
Our recent survey findings are a cause for concern, as they indicate that patients may be missing out on the full range of healthcare services that community pharmacies can provide. While it is understandable that patients may feel more comfortable visiting their GP for more serious health concerns, the services that pharmacies offer can play a vital role in preventing minor ailments from developing into more serious conditions.
Knowledge of services was as low as 13% for chlamydia screening and treatment, for example. This is concerning, as community pharmacies can provide valuable services in this area, particularly for those who may feel uncomfortable or embarrassed visiting their GP.
Furthermore, one of the key benefits of using community pharmacies is that they are often more accessible than GP surgeries or hospitals. Many pharmacies are in convenient locations such as shopping centres or high streets and have extended opening hours. This makes them an ideal choice for patients who may not have the time or resources to visit their GP during regular working hours.
Patients overall still use pharmacies for traditional services
Despite the many benefits of using community pharmacies, our survey revealed that over 50% of patients are not using pharmacies for anything further than very minor ailments. Patients need to be made aware of the potential benefits of using community pharmacies, and of the wide range of services that are available to them.
Pharmacists are some of the most highly trained professionals within the UK’s healthcare system and can offer advice on topics such as smoking cessation, weight management, and travel vaccinations. They can also provide support for patients with chronic conditions, such as asthma or diabetes, and can help to ensure that patients are taking their medicines correctly.
Digitisation will allow pharmacies to raise awareness
The ‘pharmacy first’ policy advocated by the Government is a step in the right direction, but it needs to be backed up by technological support for pharmacies. With many community pharmacies lacking an online presence, and unable to market their services effectively, digital platforms such as Charac’s are vital for driving awareness of key pharmacy services.
Furthermore, providing pharmacists with the right digital tools and appropriate training can allow them to streamline the delivery of pharmacy services, whilst providing patients with prompt and appropriate care for a wide range of health issues. This can help to reduce the burden on GP surgeries and hospitals, while also ensuring that patients receive the care that they need.
Raising the status of pharmacists
Finally, it is important to recognise the important role that pharmacists play in the delivery of healthcare services. While satisfaction with pharmacy services remains high, with almost half of respondents giving their pharmacy the highest satisfaction rating, patients evidently remain hesitant to use pharmacies as the first port of call.
With their extensive knowledge of medicines and their effects on the body, pharmacists are well-positioned to provide advice and support for a wide range of health issues. They can also play a key role in preventing medication errors and adverse drug reactions. By promoting the role of pharmacists in healthcare delivery, patients can receive the best possible care for their health needs.
The findings from our nationwide survey highlight the need for increased public education and awareness campaigns, policy change, and the use of technology to improve access to pharmacy services. By utilising the full range of services provided by community pharmacies, patients can receive prompt and appropriate care for a wide range of health issues. With these changes, we can ensure that pharmacies continue to play a vital role in our healthcare system for the long term.
About the author
Santosh Sahu is the CEO and founder of Charac, a pharmacy app helping independent pharmacies digitise their services. Sahu brings entrepreneurial and visionary leadership to his position, with a proven track record of developing and executing transformative digital strategies. He is an MBA-qualified executive and board member, with over 20 years of experience in banking (credit card processing) and retail, and for the last six years has been working in last-mile delivery logistics markets to solve strategic and tactical business problems using digital processes and technology.