Community pharmacy as an alternative source for mental health support within the primary care network – the views of pharmacy users.

Franziska Stoeckel, Tracey Thornley, Matthew J. Boyd, Claire Anderson

Keywords: community pharmacy, mental health, public

Tackling the ongoing mental health crisis requires all primary care providers to contribute and capitalise on their strengths. Community pharmacists are recognised as currently under-utilised healthcare providers, despite pharmacists’ extensive training, and the accessibility of pharmacies. Thus, community pharmacy may present an alternative source for mental health support within the primary care network.

Research questions:
Evaluating pharmacy users’ views towards mental health support provided in pharmacies.

This study followed a sequential explanatory mixed methods approach. First, a survey was distributed in 15 community pharmacies in Nottinghamshire for two weeks in March 2020. Secondly, follow-up interviews were conducted online with some survey participants and additionally sampled members of the public. The quantitative data were analysed descriptively in STATA (Release 16). The narrative data were subjected to an inductive thematic analysis; qualitative data were managed and analysed with the support of NVIVO (Release 12).

2860 pharmacy users were invited to participate; 1474 completed the survey (response rate 51.5%). Two-thirds (n=975) of participants identified as female, and 60% (n=879) reported to be aged 50 years or older. One-third of participants (n=493) were in favour of consulting a pharmacist as well as other health professionals, such as a GP, when encountering a mental health problem, and a majority (40.6%) reported to trust mental health advice provided by pharmacists. The accessibility of community pharmacy without the need for an appointment was highlighted as an important advantage for pharmacy provided mental health support by interview participants (n=9), especially in cases which require immediate attention. However, pharmacists’ lack of full access to patients’ medical records may present a considerable barrier.

Pharmacy users identified community pharmacy as a viable alternative for mental health support within the primary care network, especially in situations where long waiting times are to be avoided.

Points for discussion: