An exploratory study of the views of community pharmacy staff on the management of patients with undiagnosed skin problems

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Abstract

Objective

The aim of this study was to explore pharmacist and medicine counter assistant (MCA) perceptions of community pharmacy management of patients presenting with symptomatic skin problems.

Methods

The study involved semi-structured telephone interviews with 10 pharmacists and 15 MCAs from seven pharmacies. Interviews focused on perceptions of their role in managing symptomatic skin problems and views on why people sought pharmacy advice and any barriers to management. Advice from the local ethics committee was that approval was not required for the study. We analysed the interviews using the framework approach.

Key finding

Pharmacists identified two key themes that defined their role; triage and reassurance. In contrast, MCAs defined their role as information gatherers and independent advisors. Themes identified by both pharmacists and MCAs relating to the use of pharmacy as a source of advice were convenience, the perceived non-serious nature of conditions and inaccessibility of the GP. Additionally, MCAs believed familiarity with the pharmacist was important. Both pharmacists and MCAs identified their lack of dermatological knowledge as a barrier with pharmacists reporting insufficient time to deal effectively with patients. MCAs identified the potential for misdiagnosis by pharmacists as another potential barrier.

Conclusion

Our findings suggest that the role of pharmacists and MCAs is complementary; MCAs screen and provide the necessary information to pharmacists who then decide upon an appropriate course of action for the patient. Nevertheless, a major barrier to pharmacy-supported self-care of symptomatic skin problems is a perceived lack of knowledge and training in dermatology.

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