A pharmacy poster is seen in a window on May 22, 2020 in Penarth, Wales. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

The COVID-19 pandemic has seen Brits relying more on pharmacists, with 43 per cent of them seeking guidance on topics they would normally consult a doctor, a new research has revealed.

The Europe-wide study by Ipsos MORI for by Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health – to mark World Pharmacists Day today (25 September) – has found the issues the pharmacists now deal with range from online misinformation to digital healthcare solutions to self care.

In the UK, 43 per cent turn to community pharmacists for advice on COVID-19 protection and an equal number expect them to provide advice on treating everyday health concerns such as coughs and colds, smoking cessation or skin dryness.

The number increases to 57 per cent when it comes to OTC healthcare products, rising to 68 per cent in the 45-54 age group.

Almost a third (32%) seek pharmacists for access to vaccinations and over a fourth (27%) for access to diagnostics.

“The role of community pharmacy has never been more important” said Carlton Lawson, area managing director for Northern Europe at Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health. “Today’s consumers are seeking informed advice on healthcare topics, and pharmacists play a critical role as front-line health professionals.”

The survey has also revealed that the high street pharmacies are holding fort despite the clear shift to e-commerce during the lockdown.

While 31 per cent of UK respondents said they are now purchasing healthcare products online, almost an equal number (29%) said they have visited a pharmacy to buy products during the lockdown. The online engagement is high among the 25-34 age group, with 42 per cent of them purchasing medicine online.

Johnson & Johnson said it is actively supporting UK pharmacists to make better use of digital platforms to improve the healthcare advice provided to their customers.

“Consumer purchasing habits changed significantly before and during lockdown but not just in terms of online or in-person buying” commented Carlos Olmos, VP for customer development, Johnson & Johnson Consumer Health EMEA.

“Pre-lockdown we noted 2-5-fold higher demand for some of our products due to panic-buying, followed by increased purchasing in categories such as hand moisturisers up 15-20 per cent and mouth wash up 5-10 per cent depending on the market throughout lockdown. This increase reflects greater attention paid to oral health in the extended period between dental visits during lockdown and to dry skin linked to frequent handwashing and use of hand sanitisers.”

The survey also noted that pharmacists might need to prepare for uncertain levels of consumer demand during the winter.

Only 25 per cent of UK consumers are very confident that the health care products they have at home are sufficient if they or family members are unwell, according to the survey.

In addition, only a third say they are sure about the expiry dates and storage conditions of the products.

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