Intended for healthcare professionals

Education And Debate

Over the Counter Drugs: The interface between the community pharmacist and patients

BMJ 1996; 312 doi: (Published 23 March 1996) Cite this as: BMJ 1996;312:758
  1. Christine M Bond, lecturera,
  2. Colin Bradley, senior lecturerb
  1. a University Department of General Practice, University of Aberdeen, Aberdeen
  2. b University Department of General Practice, University of Birmingham Medical School, Birmingham B15 2TT
  1. Correspondence to: Dr Bond.

    Pharmacists play an important part in primary health care, and their accessibility is a key factor. Their NHS payments relate predominantly to the dispensing of prescribed medicines; to recognise the service element of their advisory role, an NHS funded professional fee could be built into the cost structure for pharmacy medicines. The increased number of medicines available over the counter has highlighted the need for training for counter assistants; it will become compulsory in July 1996, and some family health services authorities are providing this. The shift to care in the community could mean that pharmacists will have an even greater role in the primary health care team. Encouraging the public to seek advice from the community pharmacist may lead to a greater proportion of visits to doctors resulting from referrals from the pharmacist. Joint development by pharmacists and doctors of guidelines for advice on, and recommendation of, over the counter medicines is needed.

    The constantly increasing expenditure on health care has forced governments to look at ways of reducing costs, particularly with respect to drugs. Initiatives have been directed at promoting rational and cost effective prescribing and have also considered how underutilised professionals can make a greater contribution to more effective use of medicines. Community pharmacists, “overtrained for what they do and underutilised in what they know,”1 have been identified as one such resource.2 3 4 A key role is over the counter advice, the scope of which has been increased by recent switches of drugs from prescription only medicines to pharmacy status. As a result there are implications for the working arrangements in primary health care, particularly at the interface of the community pharmacy and general practitioner.

    Organisation of community pharmacies

    Currently there are just over 12000 community pharmacies in the United Kingdom, of which 27% are part of large …

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