Report says better communication and more investment could improve pharmacy service

Better communication between pharmacies, GP practice and patients can help improve the service for patients, according to a new report.

The document also asks the county’s health bosses to explore the current financial support for pharmacies to help ensure there are enough staff to support the service.

It is the result of a study by Healthwatch Norfolk, which gathers the views of people across the county on health and social care and feeds those back to decision-makers.

You can find out more and download the full report at


The organisation decided to carry out the work after a previous series of visits to GP practices found people were struggling to access pharmacies in some areas.

It created a survey which could be completed in person or online, worked with the Norfolk Local Pharmaceutical Committee to get feedback from those working in a chemist or surgery, and all responses were recorded anonymously.

Healthwatch Norfolk also visited 30 pharmacies across Norfolk talking to people face-to-face and giving people the chance to complete the survey at home digitally or on paper if they preferred, with over 1000 people responding.

The main areas highlighted were:

  • Staff often treated people well and were kind, helpful and answered their questions. If staff attitudes were poorer, this would cause frustration and unhappiness with the pharmacy.
  • There were pressures around staff and medication shortages, and unexpected closing of pharmacies.
  • Worries about waiting times for prescriptions when it came to preparation time and how long people stayed in a pharmacy waiting for medication.
  • The communication between doctors’ surgeries, pharmacies and patients could be improved in some areas.
  • The need for convenience of the pharmacy and the services it offered including exploring things like lockers to collect medication from or encouraging use of the NHS app for repeat prescriptions for those with digital access and knowledge.
  • Concerns about the appearance and facilities of buildings.

Following this, Healthwatch Norfolk made the following recommendations:

  • NHS Norfolk and Waveney to provide opportunities and encourage greater communication between surgeries and pharmacies.
  • This greater communication should also be supported by the Norfolk Local Pharmaceutical Committee.
  • Pharmacies to take an active role in communicating with people information like changes to opening hours or services via local newsletters, social media, and text messages.
  • The findings of this report should be included in the next Pharmaceutical Needs Assessment, a document which sets out the pharmacy services needed in Norfolk.
  • NHS Norfolk and Waveney to look at further funding for pharmacies to assist in several ways including ensuring appropriate staffing levels, so sites do not have to close when no pharmacist is on duty.

Alex Stewart, chief executive of Healthwatch Norfolk, said: “Our findings are certainly not all negative and we had some really positive feedback about pharmacy teams who are working so hard to help their communities get access to the medication and help they need.

“As with so many things, communication is key. We were hearing about surgeries issuing prescriptions to pharmacies that are closed causing frustration and worry to patients which could be avoided with a short conversation between a GP practice and a pharmacy.

“Equally, we are under no illusions that there are concerns about Norfolk’s pharmacy network in the longer term and we would urge health bosses to look at funding to support this vital community resource, particularly when it comes to staffing to help ensure pharmacies stay open for as many hours as possible.”