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Pharmacy First: Only 23% of patients would go to a pharmacist for minor conditions


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Almost half of patients are unaware of the new service, according to a new survey.

The Pharmacy First Service (PFS) was launched today in England as part of the NHS and government’s primary care access recovery plan, which is aimed at making accessing healthcare easier and more convenient for millions of people.

It is also expected to help reduce NHS waiting lists by freeing up 10 million GP appointments a year.

However, a new survey by NHS-integrated pharmacy tech platform Charac, in partnership with YouGov, revealed that a significant number of people have no awareness of this new service being offered by the community pharmacies.

The survey found that only 23 per cent of patients were using pharmacies as their initial port of call for minor conditions and nearly half of pharmacy patients were unaware of the Pharmacy First Service.

When informed about the new service, the number of patients that would go to pharmacists over GPs rose to 56 per cent for certain conditions, the survey revealed emphasising the need for more awareness around the services offered by pharmacies.

A previous survey by Charac last year found that only 13 per cent of patients were aware of the full scale of services pharmacies provide, with 53 per cent not using pharmacies for anything further than very minor ailments.

Severa pharmacy bodies have raised concerns about the introduction of Pharmacy First amidst the many challenges the sector is facing currently, including funding shortfall and staff shortages.

Santosh Sahu, Founder and CEO of Charac, acknowledged that many community pharmacies are struggling to cope with an increase in demand, and emphasised that digitisation of the sector is crucial for the successful delivery of the new service.

“Key to pharmacies being able to deliver on the new policy, we believe, is the digitisation of the sector, giving pharmacies an online platform where they can more efficiently manage their administrative processes and also offer new services, such as video consultations.

“Both funding and improved digital access can make a tangible difference in equipping pharmacies for the future,” he said.

Simon Tebbutt, Director of Membership at the National Pharmacy Association (NPA), believes that most people would be willing to go to a pharmacy to get help with a common condition when they become aware of what a pharmacist can offer, as shown by this survey.

“The Pharmacy First initiative will be a Godsend to millions of people who will be able to go straight to a pharmacist for help with everyday health issues.

“We expect more and more people will use this straightforward and helpful route into the NHS as they hear about it.

“Pharmacies are local, expert, reliable and experienced, so a natural place for people to go for advice, treatment or help with many health issues,” he said.

Under the newly launched Pharmacy First scheme, pharmacists will be able to assess and treat patients for the following seven conditions:

  1. Sinusitis
  2. Sore throat
  3. Earache
  4. Infected insect bites
  5. Impetigo
  6. Shingles
  7. Uncomplicated urinary tract infections in women (under the age of 65)




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