To ensure the safety of the healthcare workers during pandemic, 92 per cent of the respondents believe that pharmacists should be considered high or medium priority for receiving personal protective equipment (PPE) from the NHS (Photo: iStock).

A nation-wide poll commissioned by the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has revealed that pharmacists currently enjoy huge public support, with 81 per cent of the respondents holding a favourable view of the sector.

There has been a 15 per cent increase in public support since a similar poll was held in 2016.

The vast majority – 89 per cent of people – believe pharmacies are playing an essential role in the Covid-19 crisis.

Around 55 per cent of the respondents who participated in the survey stated that they have visited an NHS pharmacy during the pandemic to collect prescriptions, buy medicines or seek medical advice.

Around 22 per cent opined that their perception of NHS pharmacies has improved during the virus outbreak – driven by the perceptions that they have offered “good patient service, gone above and beyond, adapted well to coronavirus,  and provided competent collection/delivery of prescriptions.”

To ensure the safety of the healthcare workers during pandemic, 92 per cent of the public believed pharmacists should be considered high or medium priority for receiving personal protective equipment (PPE) from the NHS.

The study has also found that there is strong support for a greater role for community pharmacies within the NHS and in supporting public health.

  • 74 per cent want to see NHS pharmacies better integrated with other services, operating as neighbourhood health and well-being centres and providing face-to-face advice
  • Only 11 per cent support large scale automation, centralised dispensing and NHS pharmacistsv working predominantly from GP practices or remotely
  • 84 per cent agree that the NHS must work with the government to make greater use of pharmacists’skills
  • 73 per cent agree NHS pharmacies should expand their offering to alleviate pressure from other parts of the health service
  • The vast majority of respondents (77 per cent) see importance in face-to-face contact with their NHS community pharmacist.

Commenting on the findings, Chair of the National Pharmacy Association, Andrew Lane, said: “With many doctors surgeries closed during the pandemic, pharmacies have been on the NHS frontline during Covid-19, working long hours and providing a vital service to communities up and down the country.

“This research shows not only the huge public support for pharmacists to play a greater role in the future of the NHS but also a strong attachment to neighbourhood services and the human touch in healthcare.”

Treasury should turn £370 loan into grant, say NPA chair 

The latest findings come as the pharmacy sector is locked in negotiations with the government over additional funding. Pharmacists are calling for a government loan of £370 million to be turned into a grant to subsidise the huge additional costs they incurred during the pandemic.

Commenting on the ongoing negotiations, Lane noted that the government continues to “drag its feet over offering proper financial assistance for the sector.”

“There are many community pharmacies up and down the country on the financial brink, crippled by the extra cost of Covid-19. If they close, the towns and villages they serve will lose a popular and life-saving asset.

“Similarly, if the government is serious about stopping the slow death of the high street it needs to act now and put its money where its mouth is. The government managed to find more than a billion pounds for the arts sector yet is dithering over financial aid to frontline health workers.

“The £370 million Covid-19 crisis loans to pharmacists must be turned into a grant before it is too late. I call on the government to end the confusion around the loans and act now to save our pharmacies.”

Lee Williams, pharmacist and owner of the Prescription Service Pharmacy in Knutsford, Cheshire, said: “The research chimes very much with what my patients say to me – that they value what we do and they’d like to see us do even more to relieve pressure on the NHS.

“It’s been a hard slog during the coronavirus pandemic, but it’s worth it to see our patients safe and well.  But to continue our vital services requires investment, especially if we want to help the NHS clear the backlog of care that’s built up over the past few months.”

The survey, conducted by the CT Group, received 1,000 responses from members of the public between June 5 and 8.

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