The public views pharmacists as a trusted source of advice, and most would see a pharmacist rather than a GP for help with minor self-treatable conditions, new research suggests.
The research, which was commissioned by pharmaceutical company Sanofi, sought the views of 1,232 people on how they access information and advice regarding minor ailments, as well as their attitudes to recent changes to OTC prescribing policy. It was presented at a Parliamentary roundtable meeting on 3 July 2018 that was attended by MPs from the three main political parties, as well as representatives of organisations including the Company Chemists’ Association, Boots UK and the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee.
The research suggests that pharmacists are the most commonly chosen source of advice on minor ailments at 22 per cent of respondents, and that a majority of people (65 per cent) would seek advice from a pharmacist rather than a GP. A fifth of respondents said they don’t seek advice from any source.
GPs (80 per cent) and pharmacists (73 per cent) were the most trusted sources of advice in the survey, but finished last when it came to ease of accessing information, with Google coming top on this measure at 80 per cent.
There were splits across age and gender, with women (70 per cent) more likely than men (60 per cent) to consult a pharmacist rather than a GP, and 45-54 year olds (70 per cent) more likely than 16-24 year olds (50 per cent).
Chris Mummery, head of consumer healthcare, Northern & Southern Europe at Sanofi, said: “There were more than 57 million GP appointments for self-treatable conditions in 2015 and the time is right for self-care to be recognised as having a clearly defined role to play within healthcare.
“However, it will require a collaborative effort from policy makers, patient groups and industry leaders for things to change and support a more self-reliant, resilient and informed population and help create a sustainable healthcare system.”
68 per cent of respondents said they support new restrictions around prescribing OTC medicines for minor ailments, with most citing ‘Saving the NHS money’ as the principal reason for this. Support was equally strong among people who are eligible for free prescriptions, who Sanofi describe as being “potentially more impacted by the changes”.
Those who said they were opposed to the changes also said they would be likely or very likely to reconsider if those most in need were guaranteed access and the savings were put back into the NHS.
46 per cent of respondents said they were aware of the changes; parents with young children were the most aware at 58 per cent.