Survey Shows ‘Alarming’ Gaps on Healthcare Front

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At the new allabouthealth.org.uk, users can manage their own health, check symptoms online and find their nearest pharmacy for more support.

Ajit Malhi, the All About Health pharmacist

It points up the huge advantage of ready accessibility offered by community pharmacists, where all you have to do is walk in off the street.

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Widespread and “alarming” ignorance of the vital health checks offered by high street pharmacists is revealed in a new national survey.

The study by the Patients Association investigated public awareness of medical services they can get from their local pharmacy instead of going to the doctor.

It showed almost half of those interviewed, ranging in age from 18 upwards, did not know they could have their cholesterol or blood pressure tested at their local pharmacy. Furthermore over half the people surveyed were not aware they could get diabetes screening either, even though NHS figures for 2009 show obesity and diabetes diagnoses on the increase.

The research was carried out by the Association to back the All About Health campaign which targets people with busy lifestyles to help them manage their own health and identify what support they can receive from their local pharmacy.

Launched by leading wholesaler AAH Pharmaceuticals, the campaign already has more than 600 member pharmacies taking part across the UK.

AAH pharmacist Ajit Malhi said: “Community pharmacists are the country’s front-line troops in healthcare and we want to help them to do more to promote the vital services they offer and to make the public more aware of them.

“The survey shows an alarming lack of knowledge of how easy it is for people to take control of looking after themselves.

“Equally alarming is that more than half the people surveyed said they didn’t want to bother their GP because they feared their problem would be viewed as trivial, and more than half delayed taking action because of the difficulty in making appointments.

“It points up the huge advantage of ready accessibility offered by community pharmacists, where all you have to do is walk in off the street.”

Katherine Murphy, director of the Patients Association, said it was clear the nation’s health issues could only be successfully addressed if people could be shown how easy it was to gain the professional advice community pharmacists could offer.

In addition, the campaign has received the support of Sandra Gidley MP, Shadow Health spokesperson for the Liberal Democrats. Sandra, a qualified pharmacist said: “I am well aware of the contribution which community pharmacies currently make to the nation’s health.

“I am also very aware that they can do more from testing to screening, from lifestyle advice to MURs (medicines use reviews – a service offered by pharmacists to review and help manage a whole raft of medicines a patient may have prescribed).

“However, pharmacists are busy people. Not only do they provide a professional service they also have a business to run. That is why I welcome any initiative which makes their life easier and helps ensure that members of the public understand what their local pharmacy can offer them.”

A health web portal lies at the heart of the campaign offering people free health advice, a free online health check and individual action plans to help get people started in a new healthier lifestyle. At http://www.allabouthealth.org.uk users can manage their own health, check symptoms online and find their nearest pharmacy for more support.

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Kate Screen
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