Background: Despite pharmacists having increased involvement in managing minor illness, many patients continue to attend their GP with problems that could be managed by community pharmacists.
Objective: Our aim was to investigate the prevalence of visits to the GP that GPs felt could be managed by a pharmacist, and to explore patients' reasons for such visits.
Methods: This cross-sectional questionnaire study was conducted at 13 general practices in West Sussex, UK. A questionnaire was given to all patients attending appointments with their GP in these practices over a 1-week period, asking what the presenting problem was and whether the advice of a pharmacist had been sought. If patients had not sought the advice of a pharmacist, they were asked why not. The GP was then asked to indicate whether, in their opinion, the patient's problem could have been managed by a community pharmacist.
Results: The response rate was 94% (3984), representing 87% of all patients consulting their doctor during the week of the study. GPs felt that only 7% (260) of these visits could have been managed by a community pharmacist. The proportion of 'unnecessary' visits was significantly higher (P < 0.001) amongst young adults, those presenting with new medical problems and those consulting about a child's health. Skin and musculoskeletal problems were the most common causes of 'unnecessary' visits to the GP. The majority of patients making 'unnecessary' visits (59%) disagreed with the GP and felt that the pharmacist would not have been appropriate for their problem.
Conclusions: GPs and patients were, on the whole, in agreement over which conditions were appropriate for GP attention. There is, however, a need for education to increase awareness of the roles of pharmacists, aimed particularly at young adults and at those with children.