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The Royal Pharmaceutical Society has made this article free to access in order to help healthcare professionals stay informed about an issue of national importance.
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Nearly one in three people are more likely to visit a pharmacy for advice before seeking help elsewhere than they were before the COVID-19 pandemic, a survey has found.
The survey of 2,035 people, carried out by PureProfile on behalf of PAGB — a representative body for manufacturers of branded over-the-counter medicines — looked at changing attitudes to self-care and NHS use in light of the pandemic.
It found that 31% of respondents, who would not have visited a pharmacy for advice before seeking help elsewhere, said they were now more likely to do so, while 86% agreed that A&E and GP appointments should only be used when essential.
The survey also found that 69% of respondents were now more likely to consider self-care as their first option and 32% said the pandemic had changed their attitude to the way they use NHS services.
“If every one of those people surveyed chose self-care instead of seeing their GP or going to A&E, we estimate that the potential saving to the NHS could reach more than £780 million a year,” said Michelle Riddalls, chief executive of PAGB.
“It would also free up healthcare professionals in primary and secondary care to focus their time and expertise on individuals with more serious or long-term health conditions.
“We have a unique opportunity after the coronavirus pandemic to embed these positive changes and make the NHS more sustainable for years to come.”
Deborah Evans, a pharmacist in Winchester and fellow of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said the survey results “suggest there is real scope to build on changes in the way people have accessed healthcare services in the last three months, making more effective use of the expertise of pharmacists and their teams”.
“Pharmacies have played a central role in helping people to care for themselves during the coronavirus pandemic,” she said.
“We have remained open throughout as the front door to the NHS, supporting people in person or over the phone.”
The PAGB survey comes after a National Pharmacy Association survey of 1,000 members of the public found that 89% believed pharmacists were central to managing the COVID-19 pandemic.
Alastair Buxton, director of NHS services for the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee, said: ”It is therefore encouraging to see from this survey that the public is responding to the support available from their local pharmacy teams.
“The sector has long advocated for a ‘pharmacy first’ approach and, whilst it is unfortunate that this change in behaviour is the reaction to a global pandemic, it is a useful step in cementing pharmacy’s role in the future of the NHS.”