Public see pharmacies as key to the future of healthcare in wake of pandemic

09 Jul 2020

National polling carried out by the National Pharmacy Association can today reveal that there is strong public support for a greater role for pharmacies within the NHS post COVID19.

The new research reveals:

  • 74% want to see locally-based pharmacies better integrated with other services, operating as neighbourhood health and well-being centres and providing face-to-face advice
  • Only 11% support large scale automation of pharmacy services, with centralised dispensing and pharmacists working predominantly from GP practices or remotely
  • Pharmacists currently enjoy huge public support, with 81% of the public holding a favourable view of the sector – close to level of doctors and nurses (89%), and up 15% from 2016
  • 55% of the public have visited a pharmacy during the COVID19 crisis to collect prescriptions, buy medicines or seek medical advice
  • 89% of people believe pharmacies are playing an essential role in the COVID19 crisis
  • The vast majority of respondents (77%) say it is important to have face-to-face contact with their 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 COVID19, 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.”

Jackie Doyle-Price MP, a former Health minister, said:

This research shows that the public value their face-to-face relationship with their local pharmacist, and that they have played a vital role by staying open during the COVID19 crisis when many health services have closed. The number of pharmacies and their closeness to local communities means they could play a much bigger role in tackling the NHS backlog, taking pressure off doctors and hospitals, and supporting public health.”

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.”

Today’s findings come as the sector is locked in negotiations with the government over £370 million in emergency loans to NHS pharmacies to cope with the COVID crisis. Pharmacists are calling for the loan to be turned into a grant to subsidise the huge additional costs they have been forced to pay out for during COVID19.

Commenting on the ongoing negotiations, Andrew Lane, said

“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 COVID19. 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 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.”