Pharmacist training under spotlight after survey exposes bad advice

Poorly trained staff in some pharmacies are giving customers potentially dangerous medical advice, according to an undercover investigation by consumer watchdog Which?

Representatives from Which? visited more than 100 pharmacies across the UK, including Lloyds, Boots, Alliance/Moss, and independent and supermarket outlets to ask about problems, ranging from emergency contraception to traveller’s diarrhoea. The consumer watchdog said it received ‘bad advice’ from a third of the pharmacies visited.

Neil Fowler, editor of Which? magazine, said: “People are increasingly turning to pharmacies for the sort of advice they might have gone to their GP for in the past, but we’re concerned that in some cases they’re getting advice that is unsuitable and potentially unsafe.

“With plans to expand the remit of pharmacists further, even allowing them to leave sales assistants in charge for periods of time, it’s vital that training improves and that meaningful action is taken against those that fail to deliver.”

Investigators received unsatisfactory advice in 48% of independent pharmacies, 38% of national and regional chains and 26% of the ‘biggest players’ and supermarkets.

David Pruce, director of policy at the Royal Pharmaceutical Society, said pharmacies offered a good service in the overwhelming majority of cases.

“It is clear that there are some areas that require improvement and we are working with the profession to address these,” he said.

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