According to a survey by the Taskforce for Lung Health, 95% of people living with lung disease found the services offered by community pharmacies to be valuable, essential or something they “could not live without”.
The survey included more than 2,100 people with lung conditions and highlights the importance of community pharmacies as a vital resource for the general public.
The importance of community pharmacies has become increasingly recognised as a result of the Covid-19 vaccination programme, whereby pharmacies across the country utilised their expertise to vaccinate the population.
However, the survey results also demonstrate a lack of awareness of some of the crucial services which pharmacies offer. The results show that people with lung conditions who use community pharmacies were unaware of, or not using important services which have the potential to drastically improve their wellbeing.
An example of this is inhaler technique checks. These checks are vital for people with lung disease, as poor technique or incorrect use can risk life threatening exacerbations or asthma attacks. Despite this, 48% of people were not using this service, with a quarter of these people saying they were unaware it was available.
1 in 4 people were not aware of the full range of services available in community pharmacies
Overall, 1 in 4 people (23%) were not aware of the full range of services available in community pharmacies. This is a concern to the Taskforce, as often community pharmacies are much more accessible than GP surgeries or hospitals.
In fact, three quarters of respondents to the survey value community pharmacy services because they are close to home. Other reasons for valuing the service were convenient opening times (39%), not requiring an appointment (48%) and finding local chemists easier to access than a GP appointment (26%).
For this reason, the Taskforce say the NHS isn’t using pharmacies as well as it could to support people living with lung conditions and it must raise awareness of the variety of services community pharmacies offer.
At a time when health services are increasingly stretched, the Taskforce are calling for pharmacies to be integrated into the way care is delivered across the NHS. In this way, issues surrounding delays to diagnosis, treatment and care can be addressed at a local level.
The taskforce says the NHS must encourage more people with lung conditions to make better use of community pharmacy services overall, and expand the range the range of services offered, which would also have a positive impact on health inequalities.
This is particularly important now, considering that 37% of respondents said they are using pharmacies less than before, due to anxieties about catching Covid-19. Confidence in the safety of local pharmacies must therefore be restored, with specific measures put in place to make them as safe as possible for people with lung disease.
"Further awareness is required to promote the services community pharmacies can provide"
Dr Anna Murphy, Consultant Respiratory Pharmacist working with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, a member of the Taskforce, said: “The traditional role of the community pharmacist as the healthcare professional who dispenses prescriptions written by doctors has changed.
“Community pharmacists provide clinical services in addition to the traditional dispensing role, integrating the pharmacist into the patient pathway and working with the rest of the NHS. Community pharmacists have an important role in the prevention of lung disease by encouraging healthy living and stop smoking advice, as well having a regular opportunity to support people with optimising their medicines, for example inhaler technique.
“It is reassuring that this survey found people with lung disease find the community pharmacy valuable but further awareness is required to promote the services community pharmacies can provide. Community pharmacies provide a convenient and less formal environment for those who cannot easily access or do not choose to access other kinds of health service.”