A Which? mystery-shop of 122 UK high street pharmacies has found worrying differences between companies.
Trained mystery-shoppers visited large chains, including Boots, Lloydspharmacy and Superdrug, plus supermarkets, smaller chains and independents, and were given unsatisfactory advice on 43% of visits.
The advice given in one of our scenarios – a customer taking Warfarin and requesting a medicine for heartburn called Pantoloc Control – saw the worst results. 71% of these visits were rated unsatisfactory.
Pharmacies should have asked basic but important questions before selling this previously prescription-only drug. It can interfere with Warfarin levels in the blood, and can lead to bleeding problems and even hospitalisation.
Scroll down to see our table of the best and worst companies.
- Independent pharmacies were worse than the leading chains and supermarkets. Over half were unsatisfactory – the same as when we last investigated pharmacies in 2008.
- Counter assistants were significantly more likely to give poor advice than pharmacists. Two thirds of the visits handled solely by them were rated unsatisfactory, compared with a quarter where the pharmacist either managed or was involved in the interaction.
Which? executive director, Richard Lloyd, said: ‘Too many pharmacies are still failing their customers, with some potentially serious consequences.
‘We’re pleased that the Royal Pharmaceutical Society and the General Pharmaceutical Council recognise our concerns and are taking steps to tackle these issues. Consumers should be able to trust the advice they receive from any pharmacy they visit.’
Best and worst companies
Our results show big variations in the quality of advice given by different companies. However, compared with our last investigation in 2008, we did see some overall improvement for two of the three scenarios used by mystery-shoppers, and pockets of exemplary practice that tell us pharmacies can get it right.
But what we really want to see is pharmacies scoring no unsatisfactory results.
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