Small Business Advice

New trend could be fatal for pharmacies

Max White

The sick are turning their backs on the healthcare professionals that need them the most

A new report has found that people are putting their health at risk by self-diagnosing illnesses. Prompting warnings from health experts about the dangers of taking prescription advice from online symptom checkers, instead of trained pharmacists. And all at a time when thousands of small business pharmacies are facing closure due to government cuts.

So in the interest of our health and keeping businesses open, is it time to start making better use of pharmacies?

What the report says

The YouGov study reported that of the 2,046 Britons polled, 78% had searched for medical advice online. Over half of adults (51%) self-diagnosed their illnesses and 43% of people admitted to using painkillers that hadn’t been prescribed to them after making a DIY diagnosis.

If misinformed about their symptoms, people run the risk of taking drugs which could be harmful to them. And that's what healthcare experts are worried about.

What the experts say

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) says that the misuse of medicine can be life threatening. They are urging people who feel sick to speak to their GP or local pharmacist to ensure they are taking the correct medication.

Patients have been warned that despite some of the online healthcare information being reputable and trustworthy, much of it is not.

And it’s not just online recommendations that are worrying healthcare professionals. People taking pain relief from friends or family need to know exactly how harmful someone else’s prescription can be to them. Proper advice from a GP or pharmacist would alert patients to the dangers of taking medicine not prescribed to them.

But it's a service we might be about to lose.

A healthcare service in poor shape

Oversubscribed doctors’ surgeries are dramatically reducing access to local GPs, giving rise to the DIY diagnosis trend.

Pharmacies are doing what they can to relieve some of the pressure but they’re fast approaching a crisis of their own.

In December, the NHS will make crippling 12% cuts to the funding available to pharmacies. Currently, the average pharmacy receives £220,000 from the NHS – which accounts for between 80% and 90% of their income. In London alone, it is expected that somewhere between 470 and 750 pharmacies will be forced to close; many of which will be long established small businesses.

But if the self-diagnosis trend can be reversed and people go back to visiting their pharmacist, it might be possible to keep some of these important businesses open.