New survey shows pharmacy use up, with support for wider role

Published on: 22 July 2021


Self care behaviour – more people are visiting pharmacies for health advice in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, a new PAGB survey has found.

In the poll by PAGB, the consumer healthcare association, 47% of respondents said they turned to their local pharmacist for ‘initial advice or medication’ for a self-treatable condition – up from 37% in 2020.

The survey also found that more than half of respondents (55%) believe pharmacists should be able to update people’s medical records while one in two (50%) agreed they should have the right to view medical records.

thumbnail image of survey report

Download full results summary

PAGB members can download the results here.

The UK-wide survey of more than 2,000 people asked respondents about their attitudes to self care and accessing health services in the 12 months to June 2021, when coronavirus-related lockdown measures were in force to varying degrees.


self care survey 2021 stat 27

The survey results, published by PAGB ahead of International Self Care Day on 24 July, show that:

(View 2020 survey findings here)

Comments included: “It’s made me realise it’s not always essential to go to a GP or A&E” and “I look up online or ask a pharmacist”.

Asked what would make them more likely to use their local pharmacist for advice, 44% said ‘more privacy’ in the pharmacy.

This was followed by:

PAGB supports the introduction of appropriate access to patients’ records and the right to refer to other healthcare professionals.


pharmacist in mask with survey statistic   

Download full report for more survey findings

Michelle Riddalls, CEO of PAGB, said:

“Our findings underline the contribution and expertise of pharmacists in supporting self care and in helping to ease pressure on NHS resources such as GP appointments.

“We want to ensure that the shift towards appropriate self care witnessed during the pandemic is maintained, and there is no doubt that pharmacists have a key role to play in achieving that goal.

“We hope the level of support in our survey for broadening pharmacy access to medical records and for pharmacists’ right to refer to other healthcare professionals will help drive these issues up the agenda, particularly at a time when the Government is looking to integrate different parts of the health system more fully through its new Health and Care Bill and its recently-published Data Strategy.”

GP Dr Sarah Jarvis said:

“Pharmacists are an invaluable and integral part of our healthcare system. Their training and expertise mean they are ideally placed to advise people about self care and self-treatment options.

“They are also in a perfect position to recognise when further medical advice might be necessary from a GP or other healthcare professional.

“Allowing pharmacists the right to update medical records and to refer people to fellow healthcare professionals would be a hugely positive step towards integrating different parts of the primary healthcare system.

“It would also send a clear signal that pharmacists have the necessary skills, qualifications and authority to play a key role in individuals’ healthcare – as a GP, it makes perfect sense that they should be in the same position as GPs, practice nurses, practice-based pharmacists and others who are empowered to see and update patients’ medical records.”

Pharmacist Deborah Evans said:

“These findings show the value of pharmacists and pharmacy teams who have been open throughout the pandemic.

“We can do even more to support self care but this has to be part of a better-integrated health system which fully recognises our expertise and training.

“It is particularly encouraging that almost seven out of ten people in PAGB’s survey favour the arrangements that allow GP surgeries to refer patients to community pharmacies under the NHS Community Pharmacy Consultation Service. This service encourages and supports appropriate self care for the benefit of individuals and the NHS as a whole.”

Most common self-treatable conditions

Headache and backache remain the most commonly-experienced health conditions reported by respondents but colds and coughs have moved into the top five, replacing allergies and heartburn/indigestion.

Colds top the list of conditions that people are comfortable treating by themselves, with 94% saying they are confident practising self care for cold symptoms, followed by coughs (83%) and headaches (79%).

New survey shows pharmacy use up, with support for wider role