Background Prompt availability of Palliative Medicines (PMs) towards the end of life supports symptom management however little is known about patients‘ and carers’ experience in accessing PMs from community pharmacies.
Aim To investigate urgency, availability and referral pathways for accessing PMs according to community pharmacy customers.
Methods A customer survey was developed based on the Community Pharmacy Patient Questionnaire (CPPQ) and piloted in one pharmacy and a hospice day unit. The survey collected non-confidential information on pharmacy usage, whether prescription items were urgent, available and other descriptive data. Pharmacy staff from a purposive sample of five pharmacies in Sheffield, including two participating in a Locally Commissioned Service (LCS) providing access to PMs, distributed the survey to customers collecting PMs between May-October 2016. Survey data were analysed using SPSS v23. Ethical approval was obtained from the University of Bradford.
Results Surveys were completed for 73.3% (55/75) patients with PM prescriptions. Non-completion related to care home and home delivery prescriptions. 21.8% (12/55) of customers were referred to the pharmacy by a healthcare professional. For 20% (11/55) of customers at least one PM was not available; 54.5% (6/11) being urgent and not available. Customers had to go to more than one pharmacy to get PMs in 20% of surveys. Descriptive data suggests pharmacies were found to be friendly and helpful.
Conclusions Despite the small sample, geographical restriction and study limitations the customer survey appeared acceptable. Our findings suggest further improvements should be made to enable access to PMs from community pharmacies even when commissioned services exist. Further research is needed to explore factors that facilitate or inhibit timely access to PMs from community pharmacies.
Acknowledgements This research was funded by Pharmacy Research UK (Grant reference GA10). The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of Pharmacy Research UK.
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