A new survey by Charac, a fast-growing NHS-integrated one-stop platform for community pharmacies, in partnership with YouGov, has found that nearly half of patients were unaware of the Government's Pharmacy First Service (PFS), due to be launched tomorrow.

The PFS is being implemented to place pharmacies on the healthcare frontline, acting as a first point of contact for patients and making care more accessible, with the NHS waiting list at 7.6 million. However, only 23% of patients are currently using pharmacies as their initial port of call for minor conditions.

Once informed of the PFS, the number of patients that would go to pharmacists over GPs rose to 56% for certain conditions, demonstrating the need for more awareness around the services offered by pharmacies.

A previous survey by Charac last year found that awareness of the full scale of services pharmacies provide was as low as 13% out of those surveyed, with 53% not using pharmacies for anything further than very minor ailments.

As part of the PFS, pharmacists will be able to prescribe for the following conditions:

  • Sinusitis
  • Sore throat
  • Earache
  • Infected insect bites
  • Impetigo
  • Shingles
  • Uncomplicated urinary tract infections in women

Community pharmacies are worryingly under-resourced ahead of the launch of the PFS and face an annual shortfall in funding of over £750m, according to the Department of Health and Social Care. Furthermore, a Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC) 2023 Pharmacy Pressures Survey found that 81% of pharmacy staff are ‘struggling to cope' due to a significant rise in workload, and a recent Education England (HEE) survey found that community pharmacy vacancies doubled between 2017 and 2022.

Santosh Sahu, Founder and CEO of Charac, said: "The pharmacy sector has long voiced its concerns about the introduction of Pharmacy First and we have seen first-hand how many community pharmacies are struggling to cope with an increase in demand. Ultimately, Pharmacy First will be vital in ensuring patients have easier access to healthcare, and for pharmacies to be able to provide a greater array of services to not only help their patients but also put them on a more sustainable financial position.

"Key to pharmacies being able to deliver on the new policy, we believe, is the digitisation of the sector, giving pharmacies an online platform where they can more efficiently manage their administrative processes and also offer new services, such as video consultations.

"Both funding and improved digital access can make a tangible difference in equipping pharmacies for the future. Charac's platform enhances pharmacies' online presence, makes their processes more efficient and helps them provide the broader range of services that will help take pressure off the NHS and work to improve the nation's health."

Simon Tebbutt, Director of Membership at the National Pharmacy Association, said: "This poll shows that most people would be very happy to go to a pharmacy to get help with a common condition when they know what a pharmacist can offer.

"The Pharmacy First initiative will be a Godsend to millions of people who will be able to go straight to a pharmacist for help with everyday health issues. We expect more and more people will use this straightforward and helpful route into the NHS as they hear about it.

"Pharmacies are local, expert, reliable and experienced, so a natural place for people to go for advice, treatment or help with many health issues."

For further information visit Charac