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Survey: One-fifth of Britons seek health advice from pharmacists after symptom research

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In a recent survey of 2,000 UK adults, 34 per cent preferred consulting pharmacists for health advice after researching symptoms, while for those surveyed specifically from Wales, this figure increased to 35 per cent, according to 2San — a global supplier of healthcare products and solutions.

The survey said women had a higher tendency, with 39 per cent seeking their pharmacist’s guidance compared to 29 per cent of men surveyed.

According to the survey findings, over one-fifth of people in the UK are turning to pharmacists instead of their primary care physician or doctor for guidance and advice with medical symptoms.

“With more than 38 million patients in the UK waiting more than two weeks for a GP appointment, it is unsurprising that 34 per cent of people surveyed asked a pharmacist for advice over their primary care physician/doctor in the last 12 months,” 2san said.

In Wales, over a third of people prefer their community pharmacist for support and advice, while those aged 65 and above still tend to consult their primary care physician.

Alarming trends 

One in six individuals was found to neglect listening to their bodies or addressing medical symptoms in recent months, leading to deteriorating conditions.  The survey highlighted this concerning trend amid an age of heightened awareness about the importance of early diagnosis and preventive care.

“The healthcare industry recognises the significant benefits of early diagnosis,” said Neil Ashworth, non-executive chair at 2San. “It’s worrisome to witness a trend in the past year where people disregard their symptoms and refrain from seeking help from medical professionals.”

The survey revealed that approximately three-quarters of people seeking alternative sources of information instead of consulting their GP. “About 55 per cent of individuals turn to online sources like Google and WebMD as their primary resource to research symptoms,” it added.

Among Generation Z, a quarter of 18-24-year-olds rely on social media for self-diagnosis, a trend noted as alarming in the 2San survey.

“Of equal concern is the growing reliance, especially among young people, on social media for medical self-diagnosis—a platform known for being unregulated and rife with misinformation,” Ashworth added.

Preferred choice: self-diagnostic tests

The survey found that rapid self-diagnostic tests are emerging as a valuable source of information, gaining popularity in the post-pandemic era. Over the past 12 months, 50 per cent of the surveyed population has utilised a rapid self-diagnostic test, with Generation Z taking the lead at 75 per cent among 18-24-year-olds.

One-fifth of consumers acknowledge its advantages, expressing a preference for these tests due to their convenience and the ability to perform them on their own schedule, the survey showed.

As we transition into a new era of healthcare, the testing method that became commonplace during the pandemic is now prompting those within and associated with the NHS and healthcare industries to explore its potential in other areas of diagnosis, 2San said.

Over 10 per cent of individuals aged 18-44 have bought a rapid self-diagnostic test to self-assess symptoms at home, the survey found. Londoners show the highest openness to these tests, with one in six purchasing them for home use.

Pandemic anxiety

While Covid-19 remains the most popular reason for using at-home tests (45 per cent of respondents), there is a growing trend in utilising tests for other diagnoses including urine infections (29 per cent), vitamin and mineral deficiencies (23 per cent), and bowel health (20 per cent).

Among respondents, over 50 per cent prioritised accuracy, ease of use, and cost when selecting a rapid self-diagnostic test. “Cost was particularly significant for the 35-44 age group, while those over 65 expressed concerns about tests lacking medical endorsement. In the current economic climate, sustainability was cited as an important factor by only 12 per cent of respondents.”

“People are conscious of the NHS’s challenges, causing them to hesitate in making appointments, possibly due to lengthy wait times or fearing they might be seen as time-wasters,” Ashworth said. “Regardless of the reason, our goal is to instill confidence in people to approach healthcare professionals—starting with their local pharmacist for initial steps or their GP—to initiate the treatment process.”

The recently released 2023 Community Barometer survey found that 62 per cent of respondents considered pharmacies the ‘most essential service’ among 16 options. Additionally, pharmacies ranked second (39 per cent) among the essential services with the most positive impact on the local area, following post offices (44 per cent).

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