The role of the local pharmacist has been transformed over the last few years. We no longer simply go to them to pick up a prescription. Pharmacies are being seen as one of the cornerstones in the NHS drive to avoid people using Accident & Emergency Departments and over-stretched GP services.
Pharmacies clearly have a role in keeping people well by providing preventive advice, offering services such as blood tests, medicine checks and flu jabs. Generally, they get a good press from patients. However, our research shows that people do not always think of going to their pharmacist. In the case of minor ailments, people will still choose their GP or A&E as a first option. Please see the reports from our A&E reviews carried out last year:
Most GPs can now send prescriptions electronically to your local pharmacist so you can pick up repeat medication without having to go back to your GP. Many pharmacists offer to deliver prescriptions to people with disabilities and other mobility challenges.
Online pharmacy services have recently entered the marketplace. Companies such as Pharmacy2U and My Pharmacy have been advertising their online pharmacy services. You may have received a letter about these services in the post.
Receiving drugs online may be convenient for some patients who are familiar with the internet and do not need the personal support of their local pharmacist.
However, Healthwatch has received concerns from some people who have received letters advertising online pharmacies. They believe these letters are the NHS requesting that patients use these online services. Patients have sometimes not understood that if they sign up for the online pharmacy they will no longer be able to use their local pharmacy. A signup means your records are transferred and all your prescriptions are handled by this company.
Healthwatch is actively looking into these concerns.
We are currently conducting a survey gathering experiences from people who have received marketing from an online pharmacy like Pharmacy2U or My Pharmacy or have used these online services. We are eager to find out how people have responded to this marketing and their experience using these online services. We are also interested in hearing about patients’ experience of local pharmacies.