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Pharmacies: The ‘most essential’ service for neighbourhoods – survey reveals

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Pharmacies lead among the list of 16 ‘most essential’ services required for a neighbourhood, as revealed by the 2023 Community Barometer survey commissioned by the Association of Convenience Stores.

In June, ACS commissioned Yonder Consulting to conduct a poll surveying the opinions of 1,000 people across the UK. The survey assessed how these individuals value 16 different services in their local area, defined as the region within a 15-minute walk from their homes.

The survey’s essential services included pharmacies, post offices, convenience stores, banks, petrol stations, restaurants, coffee shops, pubs, specialist food shops, non-food shops, fast food shops, vape shops, charity shops, pawnbrokers, hairdressers, and gyms or sports facilities.

According to the survey, 62 per cent of respondents considered pharmacies the ‘most essential service’ among the 16 options. The post office followed as the second-most essential service with 61 per cent, while convenience stores ranked third at 47 per cent.

Similarly, pharmacies were ranked second (39 per cent) among the essential services with the most positive impact on the local area, following post offices (44 per cent).

Approximately 86 per cent had a pharmacy within a 15-minute walk from their homes, the poll results showed. However, pubs, takeaway restaurants, and convenience stores ranked higher, each at 87 per cent.

People prioritise greater investment in parks, while considering vape shops and pawnbrokers as the least essential services in their locality, the survey found.

The ACS survey comes at a time when pharmacy closures are being reported across the UK, highlighting the importance of pharmacies as essential services in the face of these challenges.

“UK consumers are sending a very clear message that a diverse range of local services are essential to the wellbeing of their communities,” said James Lowman, Chief Executive of ACS. “Convenience stores are increasingly acting as service hubs, including post office counters, prescription collections and banking services within their businesses, which are highly valued by their customers.”

In March, YouGov polling commissioned by the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee revealed that majority of adult respondents expressed concern over pharmacy closures in their locality. The results demonstrate strong public support for a Pharmacy First approach, as PSNC argues that a fully-funded service would benefit pharmacies, patients, and the wider NHS.

On Aug. 3, NHS England’s Community Pharmacy Workforce Survey 2022 revealed a 6 per cent decrease in the overall community pharmacy workforce, with a 16 per cent increase in vacancy rates among pharmacists.

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