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Original research
‘We do not seem to engage with dentists’: a qualitative study of primary healthcare staff and patients in the North East of England on the role of pharmacists in oral healthcare
  1. Andrew Sturrock1,
  2. Philip M Preshaw2,
  3. Catherine Hayes1,
  4. Scott Wilkes1
  1. 1Faculty of Health Sciences and Wellbeing, University of Sunderland, Sunderland, UK
  2. 2National University Centre for Oral Health, National University of Singapore, Singapore, Singapore
  1. Correspondence to Andrew Sturrock; andrew.sturrock{at}


Objective To explore the attitudes towards, and perceptions of, primary care healthcare staff and patients, regarding the role of clinical pharmacists in the provision of oral health advice and collaboration with dentists in general practice.

Design Interpretivist methodology using qualitative semi-structured interviews and focus groups.

Participants 22 participants; 10 pharmacists; 3 general practitioners; 2 nurses; 1 practice manager; 6 patients.

Setting Primary care general medical practices in the North East of England and the University of Sunderland Patient Carer and Public Involvement group.

Methods One-to-one semi-structured interviews were performed with primary care healthcare staff. An iterative approach using constant comparative analysis facilitated the ongoing enrichment of data; salient themes were identified using Framework Analysis and related back to extant literature. A focus group was held with patients to further explore key themes.

Results Four salient and inter-related themes emerged: enhanced clinical roles; indicating rapidly changing roles of pharmacists working in general practice, increased responsibility and accountability of pharmacist prescribers and the delivery of advanced clinical services; limited knowledge; indicating basic understanding of appropriate oral health advice, but limited insight and provision of advice to patients with regards to links with systemic diseases and medication; geographical/situational isolation of the dental team; indicating the disparate contexts and challenges of multidisciplinary working in oral health, and patients’ attitudes towards dental care; integration of oral health advice; indicating the potential of pharmacists to integrate oral health advice into current roles and to target specific patient groups in practice.

Conclusions The lack of integration between oral and general healthcare services potentially impacts negatively on patient care, requiring further interprofessional oral health education. The developing role of the pharmacist in general practice represents an opportunity to integrate oral health advice and/or interventions into the management of patients in this setting.

  • primary care
  • qualitative research
  • organisation of health services

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  • Contributors AS, SW, CH and PMP designed the study. AS recruited the participants and carried out the study. AS identified the thematic framework and interpreted the data. AS, SW, PMP and CH reviewed and refined the data. AS wrote the paper and all authors revised it. AS received training in qualitative research skills by the research team and through attendance at a Qualitative Research Methods in Health Course at University College London.

  • Funding This work was supported by an internal research award from the University of Sunderland.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Ethics approval Ethical approval was obtained from the University of Sunderland Research Ethics Committee (REF: 002856).

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement No data are available. Participant information sheets and invitation letters are included (Supplementary Documents 3 and 4); no further data shared.

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