Lack of awareness in pharmacy services, reveals Citizens’ Panel report

Written by Tom Freeman on 24 March 2017 in News

First Citizens' Panel report from the Scottish Health Council reveals a lack of public awareness of what a pharmacist can offer

Public awareness of the role of the pharmacist as a specialist in medicines is poor, according to the first report by the Scottish Health Council’s Citizens’ Panel.

Only four percent said they would ‘always’ consult a pharmacist for advice on medicines, while a fifth said they would ‘never’ consult one.

This is despite face-to face being the favoured method of receiving advice on medicines, with 64 per cent stating they would prefer to find out in this way.


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The Scotland-wide ‘Our Voice’ panel of 1,291 members answered questions on social care support, medicine use and pharmacy and dental services in the first of three or four annual surveys.

Only half of respondents knew that recent legislation now means many pharmacists can now prescribe medicines in Scotland.

Pharmacists train for five years and are experts on medicines. Since 2006 they have been able to take postgraduate training which allows them to be independent prescribers like some nurses.

Currently around a quarter of the pharmacists working in community, hospital and GP practices in Scotland have this qualification, helping reduce congestion in GP practices.

Aileen Bryson, Interim Director for the Royal Pharmaceutical Society in Scotland, welcomed the report.

“It is clear from our engagement with members of the public that they require access to more information about the current and future roles of the pharmacist. This new report quantifies the size of the challenge,” she told Holyrood.

“The public needs to know that they can turn to their pharmacist for both care and advice on medicines and their health. In fact, changing models of care means that we want the public to think ‘Pharmacy First’.”

Bryson also said pharmacists could contribute even more if given access to patient records as part of “a joined-up health and social care service”.

The ‘Our Voice’ survey also found only 13 per cent are aware of the Yellow Card scheme, which allows people and professionals to report side effects from medicines.

Of the 53 per cent who had experienced side effects form their medicines, only one per cent used the Yellow Card scheme compared to 80 per cent who reported them to their GP.

The survey also revealed the GP was the most popular source for advice on social care support. Respondents also said access to NHS dentistry was the most important factor in improving oral health in Scotland

Sandra McDougall, Acting Director of Scottish Health Council, said the Citizens’ Panel can help promote the public role in improving health and social care services in Scotland.

“Our first report highlights the changing role of the pharmacist in driving improvements in how we use medicines. We hope this can raise awareness of the pharmacist’s key role in prescribing medicines and advising patients,” she said.

The ‘Our Voice’ Citizens’ Panel survey was conducted with help from the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland, Inclusion Scotland and Scottish Care. The next survey will focus on social isolation and shared decision making.

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