Context: The reclassification of prescription only medicines (POMs) to pharmacy only (P) and general sale list (GSL) status is ongoing in the UK. Pharmacy staff need support to ensure the appropriate supply of these non-prescription medicines (NPMs). Objective: To investigate the type of evidence used in the decision to NPMs and the barriers associated with their supply. Methods: A participant observation study was conducted in nine pharmacies in one area of Scotland (Grampian). In-depth interviews were conducted with one pharmacist and one medicine counter assistant (MCA) from each pharmacy to explore and compare their attitudes and beliefs towards evidence-based practice (EBP) and the supply of NPMs. Key findings: Most consultations were product requests. Pharmacy staff had little awareness or understanding of the term EBP and no specific evidence was used in the majority of consultations. Pharmacists' attitudes towards EBP varied. Personal experience or feedback from customers were cited as evidence upon which treatment recommendations were based. Many barriers and problems were associated with the supply of NPMs. These included: lack of evidence; MCAs' self-perception of their role; questioning and communication skills; safety; and training needs. There was a gap between pharmacists' and MCAs' perceptions of who should be referred to the pharmacist. Many staff used the WWHAM mnemonic for questioning customers, but this was often used as a matter of rote rather than as a framework to engage the customer in a relevant and constructive consultation. The development of adequate communication skills to allow core information to be obtained to support decision making needs to be addressed. Conclusion: An increased awareness of EBP and its role in quality care needs to be promoted to community pharmacists and MCAs. There is currently no formal continuing education provision or requirement for MCAs in the UK. Pharmacy staff, particularly MCAs, require continuing education on the supply of NPMs.
- non‐prescription medicines
- evidence-based practice