More than 90% of adults in England are aware that community pharmacies offer flu vaccinations, NHS medicines consultations and blood pressure monitoring, a new survey conducted on behalf of the National Pharmacy Association (NPA) has suggested.

And it found that most respondents viewed community pharmacies as healthcare rather than retail settings.

The research findings have been released to mark the start of the NPA’s Ask Your Pharmacist Week, which aims to raise awareness of the services offered by community pharmacies.

The survey was conducted by Research Without Barriers across 1,680 adults in England from 20-23 October 2023.

It found that 97% of respondents knew that at least some pharmacies offered flu jabs, 96% of respondents thought that at least some pharmacies offered advice on treating minor illnesses, and 95% knew about pharmacies offering NHS medicines consultations.

And 95% of respondents thought that at least some pharmacies had consultation rooms, though 20% thought this was less than a quarter of community pharmacies, 27% thought that it was between a quarter and half of the sector, 26% thought that between half and three-quarters of pharmacies had consultation rooms and 22% thought that between three-quarters and all community pharmacies had consultation rooms.

Over half (56%) of respondents said that it would be appropriate to ask for smoking cessation support at their local pharmacy for help to quit smoking, while 63% said they would ask for a blood pressure check at their local community pharmacy.

The word most frequently associated with local community pharmacists was ‘medicines’, with 58% of respondents choosing this from a list.

The words that were next more associated with community pharmacists were ‘convenient’ and ‘healthcare’, followed by ‘minor illnesses’, ‘caring’, ‘consultations’ and ‘expert’.

And 30% – less than a third of respondents chose ‘retail’, the NPA said.

In addition, around two-thirds of respondents were aware of the level of training undertaken by community pharmacists, with 68% saying that they knew that it takes at least five years to qualify as a pharmacist and 67% being aware that all pharmacy staff must undertake some regulated training in the use of medicines.

Stephen Fishwick, head of communications at the NPA, said the new data showed ‘an encouraging level of public awareness and acceptance of community pharmacy based clinical services’, as well as ‘a recognition that community pharmacists are highly trained healthcare professionals’.

But he said there was ‘still a long way to go until there is universal understanding of the skills and services available in pharmacies’.

‘That’s why we encourage our members and pharmacy stakeholders to get involved with initiatives like Ask Your Pharmacist Week, which promote the convenient clinical care on offer in community pharmacies across the UK,’ he added.

The recent NHS primary care recovery plan promised a national communication campaign to increase the public’s understanding of changes to primary care services, including a public-facing campaign to help raise awareness of the highly anticipated common conditions service in England, planning for which NHS England has said is ‘underway’.

And a survey recently launched by the Advisory Group on Contraception (AGC) is asking members of the public whether they would feel comfortable discussing contraception with their pharmacist.