Evaluation of community pharmacists' recommendations to standardized patient scenarios

Paul M. Rutter*, Emma Horsley, David T. Brown

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Recent trends in the global nonprescription drug market show a massive increase in medicine availability to the general public. This places greater responsibility on community pharmacists to ensure that patients exercise self-care appropriately. This small study examined pharmacist performance in facilitating patient self-care. 

Objective: To determine whether an appropriate course of action was taken by UK community pharmacists practicing in one geographic area when presented with 1 of 2 case scenarios: headache or abdominal pain. 

Methods: A covert researcher, posing as a patient, spoke with the pharmacist on duty at each of 30 pharmacies, asking for advice on one of the scenarios. The pharmacist was interviewed and their responses were examined by an expert panel. 

Results: Thirty pharmacies were visited resulting in 28 consultations, 14 each for both scenarios. Pharmacists performed better when counseling the "patient" with abdominal pain than headache. The majority of questions asked were categorized as being relevant by the panel (66% for headache, 89% for abdominal pain), although in both scenarios, the expected outcome of referral was observed only in 7 of the consultations for headache and in 8 cases for abdominal pain. Questioning centered on quantification and clarification of the presenting problem and rarely on questions related to history taking. 

Conclusions: Performance levels of the community pharmacists varied considerably. For all pharmacists to perform well, greater emphasis should be placed on eliciting information from the patient to ensure that the appropriate course of action is taken.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1080-1085
Number of pages6
JournalAnnals of Pharmacotherapy
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2004


  • Community pharmacy
  • Nonprescription medicines
  • United Kingdom


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