Objective: To investigate the views and beliefs of community pharmacists about the benefits and disadvantages to the customer, pharmacy and pharmacist of treating women with symptoms suggestive of vaginal thrush.
Design: Semi-structured interviews.
Setting: Community pharmacists from within Grampian Primary Care NHS Trust.
Outcome measures: Pharmacists' views and beliefs analysed using content analysis.
Results: Of the 26 pharmacists contacted, 19 (73%) pharmacists from 16 pharmacies completed interviews. The pharmacists were generally positive towards the treatment of women with vaginal symptoms and perceived few disadvantages. Immediate access to treatment and rapid symptom relief were perceived to be the greatest advantages to the customer. The main problems were customer embarrassment, cost and the risk of masking a serious condition. Customer embarrassment was perceived to be influenced by lack of privacy and the gender of the member of staff involved in the consultation. Five pharmacists perceived vaginal thrush to be an infection that could be spread by sexual transmission.
Discussion: There is a need to make pharmacists aware of the current evidence regarding the treatment of vaginal thrush, particularly the sexual partners of women with acute, uncomplicated thrush do not require treatment with an antifungal. The main difficulties that community pharmacists reported with the treatment of this condition were obtaining an accurate history and this was influenced by customer embarrassment. The gender of pharmacy staff and lack of private consultation facilities were suggested as factors that are associated with customer embarrassment and hence, the ability to obtain an accurate history.