With pharmacies and their services becoming increasingly high profile, Boots wanted to look at the factors affecting delivery of these services to their customers.
Dr Tracey Thornley of Boots approached the University as she wanted to undertake a PhD entitled ‘Factors affecting service delivery within community pharmacy in the United Kingdom’, which would examine these issues.
Using asthma services as an example, Dr Thornley carried out a series of studies in Boots pharmacies across the UK to assess which services best met the different needs of their customers.
The findings of the research highlighted that there isn’t a single specific approach needed for the delivery of pharmacy services, but an adaptable model is required which can be tailored for different services and different customers.
Having worked with Professor Claire Anderson from the School of Pharmacy on previous projects – such as Boots smoking cessation programme – Dr Thornley was confident she was turning to the right person to advise her on her PhD. Her research was sponsored by Boots, and Professor Anderson was her supervisor throughout the study, which Dr Thornley undertook while she was still working full time.
“As a service development manager with Boots, I wasn’t just approaching this PhD from an academic viewpoint,” says Dr Thornley. “I needed to conduct the study from a commercial context too, and it was really important to me that my supervisor supported me on this. Luckily, we’ve worked with Professor Anderson on other projects, and I was very comfortable with the fact that she had a good commercial, as well as academic, awareness.”
Using asthma services as an example, Dr Thornley set up two trial services. The first was a brief intervention, which took the form of a short interview between the pharmacist and customer, with the pharmacist giving some basic lifestyle tips and advice after asking a few simple questions. The second was a more intensive service, set up and offered through a group of local pharmacists. They identified people with asthma that would benefit from advice, and adapted and controlled the length of the consultation as appropriate.
“I monitored the trials using feedback from customers and pharmacists collected during interviews, and from mystery customer research,” continues Dr Thornley. “They were extremely successful in that the pharmacist enjoyed delivering a good service, and the customer really benefited from this type of one-to-one advice. I also identified a number of barriers which were currently preventing these kind of services being successfully offered.”
The findings from the project have now been used to influence the delivery of other pharmacy services across Boots. Their hugely successful Chlamydia screening and treatment service was modelled on this research, with the findings being used to remove barriers and increase the ease and simplicity of offerings to customers.
“It’s all about improving the public perception of pharmacies, and by removing some of the barriers I identified, improving training and giving pharmacists clear, concise communications, we’ve really started to do this,” says Dr Thornley. “It was very hard work doing a full-time job alongside a full-time PhD, but I was very committed to this study and knew how beneficial it would be. I had fantastic support from the University – it has a great reputation in the field of pharmacy, and their academic expertise and facilities encouraged me to work with them on my studies.”