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Optimising Over The Counter (OTC) Medicines Use


Responding to findings from the Which? undercover investigation

In May, as part of its Spring 2017 educational programme, NES Pharmacy will be running a series of national events on the topic, Optimising OTC medicines use.

These events are intended as an educational response to the findings from the Which? undercover investigation.  They will provide support to all members of the pharmacy team - from pharmacists and pharmacy technicians to dispensing assistants and medicines counter assistants, helping them to improve over-the-counter consultations in their pharmacies. The events will also focus on reducing harm, specifically in relation to high risk products and vulnerable patient populations.

In 2013, the consumer association, Which?, published the findings from its investigation into over the counter (OTC) consultations in community pharmacies in the UK (Pearl, 2013). They highlighted variability in the medicines advice provided; and in some cases, the advice could have resulted in preventable harm or unnecessary referrals.

That same year NES Pharmacy provided funding to explore which community pharmacy services could benefit from improvement, with a special focus on the role of the community pharmacy team in relation to OTC consultations and advice.

The research suggested three potential solutions to improve OTC consultations:

  • To improve information gathering behaviour during OTC consultations
  • To change consumer information sharing behavior of the pharmacy team
  • To improve actual or perceived privacy of OTC consultations

Through the national learning events NES Pharmacy will be able to address the recommendations from the research it funded and offer support to community pharmacy teams in their daily practice. 

A Distance Learning resource pack is now available and has been sent to all community pharmacies.

Optimising OTC medicines use (Responding to the Which? report)




NHS Forth Valley

27 April

NHS Borders

  3 May

NHS Grampian

  3 May

NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde

10 May

NHS Dumfries and Galloway

15 May

NHS Tayside

15 May

NHS Lothian

16 May

NHS Ayrshire and Arran

17 May

NHS Fife

23 May

NHS Lanarkshire

23 May

Pharmacy staff at counter with customer