Public satisfied with pharmacies during pandemic says Healthwatch

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Public satisfied with pharmacies during pandemic says Healthwatch

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People have generally felt satisfied with pharmacies during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Healthwatch, but there are still areas for improvement, including raising awareness of the different services that pharmacies provide.

Healthwatch, which monitors health service performance from the public's perspective, says people particularly praised:

  • Timeslots for prescription collection
  • Medication deliveries, which have been crucial for people self-isolating or shielding
  • Pharmacies being open while other services were difficult or impossible to access
  • Being able to collect or order repeat prescriptions in person.

A report from Healthwatch Manchester shows that pharmacies are providing an essential service for disadvantaged communities. An investigation of Manchester’s Chinese, D/deaf and south Asian communities found that pharmacies were the most used health service during the pandemic.

However, Healthwatch flagged up concerns – not all of which are within a pharmacies direct control - including:

  • Many people have reported that their medication has been delayed or is out of stock, sometimes because of missing or incorrect prescriptions.
  • People struggled with long waiting times and queues, particularly those more vulnerable or during winter.
  • Social distancing and infection control measures were not always in place or followed,.
  • People experienced poor communication and coordination between pharmacies and GPs
  • Medication delivery has got worse or stopped completely in some areas, causing difficulties for those self-isolating or shielding.

Healthwatch concludes that there needs to be a better understanding of what pharmacists can do. “The main reason people use pharmacies is to get their medication. But not everyone understands the full range of services and support pharmacies offer, such as preventative advice and treatment for minor ailments.”

Some of the reasons people gave for not seeking support from their pharmacist first was:

  • Often being told to see their GP anyway, creating the sense that there was little point going to your pharmacist first
  • The pharmacist seemed too busy to talk, or there was no private space
  • The roles, qualifications and expertise of pharmacy staff were not always clear.

Healthwatch was established under the Health and Social Care Act 2012 to understand the needs, experiences and concerns of people who use health and social care services.

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