Objectives To apply sociological theories to understand public trust in extended services provided by community pharmacists relative to those provided by general practitioners (GPs).
Design Qualitative study involving focus groups with members of the public.
Setting The West of Scotland.
Participants 26 purposively sampled members of the public were involved in one of five focus groups. The groups were composed to represent known groups of users and non-users of community pharmacy, namely mothers with young children, seniors and men.
Results Trust was seen as being crucial in healthcare settings. Focus group discussions revealed that participants were inclined to draw unfavourable comparisons between pharmacists and GPs. Importantly, participants' trust in GPs was greater than that in pharmacists. Participants considered pharmacists to be primarily involved in medicine supply, and awareness of the pharmacist's extended role was low. Participants were often reluctant to trust pharmacists to deliver unfamiliar services, particularly those perceived to be ‘high risk’. Numerous system-based factors were identified, which reinforce patient trust and confidence in GPs, including GP registration and appointment systems, GPs' expert/gatekeeper role and practice environments. Our data indicate that the nature and context of public interactions with GPs fostered familiarity with a specific GP or practice, which allowed interpersonal trust to develop. By contrast, participants' exposure to community pharmacists was limited. Additionally, a good understanding of the GPs' level of training and role promoted confidence.
Conclusion Current UK initiatives, which aim to implement a range of pharmacist-led services, are undermined by lack of public trust. It seems improbable that the public will trust pharmacists to deliver unfamiliar services, which are perceived to be ‘high risk’, unless health systems change in a way that promotes trust in pharmacists. This may be achieved by increasing the quality and quantity of patient interactions with pharmacists and gaining GP support for extended pharmacy services.
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To cite: Gidman W, Ward P, McGregor L. Understanding public trust in services provided by community pharmacists relative to those provided by general practitioners: a qualitative study. BMJ Open 2012;2:e000939. doi:10.1136/bmjopen-2012-000939
Contributors WG and LM: substantial contributions to conception and design, analysis and interpretation of data; drafting the article or revising it critically for important intellectual content; final approval of the version to be published. PW: substantial contributions to analysis and interpretation of data; revising the article critically for important intellectual content; final approval of the version to be published.
Funding This research was funded by a Lifelong Health and Wellbeing Grant administered by the MRC. The funder did not influence research, and all researchers acted independently of the funder.
Competing interests None.
Ethics approval Ethics approval was provided by University of Strathclyde.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data sharing statement There are no additional unpublished data from this study.
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