Most patients find it easier to seek health advice for common conditions at a pharmacy rather than a GP surgery, according to a recent YouGov poll conducted on behalf of the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee (PSNC).

Of the 1,774 adults in England who were surveyed, 68% said that they would find it easier to ask for advice for common ailments like skin conditions or indigestion at a community pharmacy rather than going to their GP.

And three-quarters (75%) also said that they would like to see community pharmacies offering more healthcare services such as treating urinary tract infections (UTIs) or sore throats.

Nearly eight in ten (78%) described the services provided by community pharmacies as ‘very important’, while 77% said they would be very concerned if the pharmacy they use most often were to close permanently.

Janet Morrison, chief executive of PSNC, said that the government should listen to the results of the poll and invest in the community pharmacy sector, namely by funding a national Pharmacy First service in England.

She said: ‘These polling results will come as no surprise to anybody working in community pharmacy – the public value their local pharmacies and want to see them doing even more to support their health.

‘Having the data to prove this is incredibly important and allows us to once again show Government and the NHS how important pharmacies are and how much people want to go on using them.

‘They must listen to the voice of the public and step in not only to save pharmacies, but to allow them to build on their successes during the pandemic to offer a national Pharmacy First service.’

Cross-sector campaign group Save Our Pharmacies has drawn attention to the pressures that pharmacies are under as well as ‘the huge untapped potential of the sector – including to offer a Pharmacy First service – if appropriate resourcing is made available’.

Advocates say the service could ease pressure on the NHS as a whole, with the latest figures from a locally commissioned scheme in Cornwall suggesting that the walk-in consultation service (WICS) offered by community pharmacies saved over 6,000 GP appointments in its first 12 months.

In November, Ms Morrison told The Pharmacist that ministers were ‘sold’ on the idea of a Pharmacy First scheme in England, but ‘didn’t have the scope’ to agree to the funding package set out by PSNC.

And earlier this month PSNC told the government that pharmacies did not even have the capacity to offer services already agreed in the Community Pharmacy Contractual Framework, such as the contraception service, without additional funding for the sector.

Contractors have highlighted concerns around rising costs, such as the price of medicines, the increase in the national living wage from 1 April, energy bills, high locum rates caused by staff shortages, and additional demands on their time such as sourcing medications in short supply and handling the new HRT pre-payment certificate.