Focus on access to pharmacy services

Making sure pharmacy services can be accessed by the people who need to use them

March 2020

Pharmacy owners are well placed to make pharmacy services accessible by having appropriate arrangements in place and taking steps to make sure people can use the services they need, when they need them.

Pharmacy professionals are often the most frequent contact a person has with a healthcare professional, and it is important that care is adapted to meet the person’s needs. Pharmacy professionals must make sure that the services they provide are not compromised by their own personal values and beliefs.

Ensuring your pharmacy is accessible includes making reasonable alterations to premises too. This can include providing lifts, wide doors and ramps, and a hearing loop. Physical access is obviously important and there are lots of other aspects to accessibility too. This means also thinking about the access issues experienced, for example, by people who share one or more legally protected characteristics, such as a particular ethnicity, gender or a disability.

Pharmacy owners and pharmacy professionals must be mindful of the various needs of different patients and members of the public in the community they serve. Pharmacy professionals should carry out assessments of people’s needs and make reasonable adjustments so that everyone can access the healthcare they require.

Adapting the care you provide can involve tailoring your language and style of speaking, and providing large print labels and tactile signage for people who are visually impaired. Communication is more than giving a person information, it is the exchange of information between people, and involves asking questions and listening carefully to responses.

Below are some real examples of good practice from registered pharmacies in Great Britain who have improved their services to be more accessible.

Meet the standards

The pharmacy services provided are accessible to patients and the public

Standard 1 of the standards for pharmacy professionals: Pharmacy professionals must provide person-centred care. People receive safe and effective care when pharmacy professionals listen to the person and understand their needs and what matters to them

Standard 3 of the standards for pharmacy professionals: effective communication is essential to the delivery of person-centred care and to working in partnership with others. It helps people to be involved in decisions about their health, safety and wellbeing.

Tailoring your communication

A community pharmacy, based in a diverse area where many people did not speak English as a first language, designed a poster which translated helpful pharmacy phrases into various languages.

The team contacted local Polish and Thai centres, and used the knowledge of members of the pharmacy team who spoke locally-used languages to help with the translations. The poster allowed people to indicate their preferred language and the pharmacist could then point to phrases such as ‘take one’, ‘three times a day’ and ‘can cause drowsiness’ to advise the patient on their medicines.

Another community pharmacy displayed a language identification chart, produced by the Refugee Council, in the pharmacy. This helped people to select which language they preferred to communicate in.

Adapting your premises

A community pharmacy installed an additional reception desk at a lower level, next to the dispensary. This provided people who had mobility difficulties, such as wheelchair users, with a desk at the right height so that they could sign for prescriptions and retrieve their medication.

Undertaking further training

A village pharmacy developed services to meet the specific needs of patients suffering from dementia and age-related conditions. The pharmacy team were trained as ‘dementia friends’ to improve their understanding of these conditions.

A person suffering from dementia routinely visited their pharmacy on a particular day each week to collect part of their prescription

The pharmacist decided not to bring the medicines into alignment, which would streamline the prescription of multiple medicines, as they recognised that this weekly routine worked for this person. The pharmacy team also closely monitored her compliance to ensure that her needs were met.

Find out more

More examples of notable practice are available on the knowledge hub of our inspections website.

Dementia Friends is a programme delivered by the Alzheimer’s Society, a registered UK charity. Dementia Friends is an initiative aimed at transforming the way the nation thinks, acts and talks about Dementia. 

The Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee has information on the accessibility information standard which pharmacies must comply with. 


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