91.3% of citizens positively value the performance of pharmacists during the crisis, being the most accessible and closest healthcare resource.

A pharmacy, in Madrid.

In Spain there is one pharmacy for every 2,000 inhabitants. It is the most extensive network of community pharmacies in Europe, and confirms the sector as the health resource closer and accessible to citizens (9 out of 10 have a pharmacy within ten minutes of their home). So his work this last year, along with that of the rest of the health system, has been essential.

When the first state of alarm was approved in March of last year, the situation was one of real uncertainty, so the pharmacies “made ourselves available to the administrations offering solutions aimed at protecting citizens and professionals and always ensure access to medicines”, Says Jesús Aguilar, president of the General Council of Pharmaceutical Colleges. It was achieved that in the middle of the crisis there would be no shortage And fortunately, 99.8% of the pharmaceutical network remained active at all times. A year later, the management of the pandemic carried out by the sector has improved its perception among citizens, since it has also acted as Information point, being a place of trust for many patients.

During the first month of confinement, more than 850,000 patients received their medications at home

A vocation of public service

The protection of the population has been the undisputed objective in this crisis and, in that sense, “the patients have seen that the community pharmacy It has been one of the structures that has performed the best. There have been areas that have been collapsed, but the pharmacy has been open and operational since the first day ”, explains Andoni Lorenzo, president of the Patient Forum. With overflowing health centers, “pharmacies have absorbed part of the healthcare pressure of the health system ”, affirms Aguilar.

No one should be left behind, and that is why it is worth highlighting the work done with the most vulnerable patients: chronic patients, dependents or people who were in quarantine. The General Council established for this an exceptional protocol so that pharmacists could provide medicines at home. Only during the first month of confinement more than 850,000 patients benefited from this service. Although beyond the exceptionality of the pandemic, for Aguilar, this is a service that must be regulated since “there is a social need for thousands of patients who require this care, as are the dependents or the oldest ”.

Andoni Lorenzo, president of the Patient Forum.

Andoni Lorenzo, president of the Patient Forum.

This strategy was repeated in the dispensing of drugs in the hospital setting, facilitating in the first months 10,000 patients from risk groups who could pick up their treatments at their nearest pharmacy without having to go to the hospital. This collaboration in the dispensing of hospital medicines in community pharmacies has shown in a recent study carried out in Cantabria that it saves costs for the health system and patients, avoiding travel. On many occasions, Lorenzo says, “when we were scared to go to the health center or the hospital, Pharmacies seem to be sending a more reassuring message”.

The pandemic has had a high personal cost in the sector: 24 deceased pharmacy professionals

They quickly became a safe space, where citizens came to find out about Covid-19. This is explained, according to Lorenzo, because “together with the family doctor, the pharmacist is the person with whom patients empathize the most. There is a close relationship, and when your health center does not pick up the phone, many times the point of connection with health has been the pharmacist ”. From the sector, says Aguilar, “in order to answer all the doubts we received about the virus, we have generated a multitude of training material for pharmacists (courses, webinars and technical documentation) and informative for citizens”.

The pharmacy has been the health resource most accessible to citizens, and this is demonstrated by the figures: In the first month of confinement, more than 30 million people went to the pharmacy, of which more than 5 million did so for reasons related to Covid-19, according to the survey The Role of Pharmacy in the COVID-19 crisis prepared by GAD3. The pharmacy is a essential public service, whose importance lies in the fact that “it is a health facility that take care of the whole community”Adds Aguilar.

Jesús Aguilar, president of the CGCOF.

Jesús Aguilar, president of the CGCOF.

This aspect is especially relevant in rural and unpopulated areas, where access to a health center is more complicated, since the geographical distribution of hospital centers is mainly concentrated in large cities. In Spain there are 21,102 pharmacies, and in rural areas “there are 2,000 pharmacies in towns with fewer than 1,000 inhabitants”, Aguilar declares, which is why it is evident “especially essential in those centers where pharmacies are the only health establishments”. It is an organism of cohesion, that reaches the majority of the population.

Of the 75,000 registered pharmacists in Spain, more than 53,000 work in community pharmacies

More than 90% of Spaniards have a good opinion of the sector

As a result of its performance during the pandemic, “the sector has further strengthened its image,” says Narciso Michavila, president of GAD3. According to the survey carried out by the consultant during the first month of confinement, 91.3% of Spaniards recognize the work of pharmacies as good or very good.

The social function of the pharmacy has been strengthened with initiatives such as Mask-19, aimed at helping victims of gender violence, implemented in more than 16,000 pharmacies

This report also highlights the almost unanimous trust of society towards pharmacists (98%) and the quality of the care received (94% of those surveyed are satisfied). According to Michavila, the already favorable opinion towards pharmacies has improved after the health crisis due to the network strength, which has worked without problems during the toughest moments, thus “Medicines have reached any corner of Spain” since pharmacists are an important social actor, with “proven recognition among the population, especially the elderly.”

Pharmacies join in the screening work

Already in September, from the General Council of Pharmaceutical Colleges “we offered to collaborate in the performance of rapid tests as well as in the vaccination strategy”. To date, pharmacies have joined in conducting rapid tests in Madrid, Catalonia and Galicia, “With excellent results,” Aguilar emphasizes.

The sector maintains its offer for collaborate even more in the work of screening, early detection and vaccination in the rest of the country, so that the pharmacy “is given the possibility of collaborating more actively”, concludes Aguilar. The president of the Patient Forum agrees with the request, since “it has been shown that the pharmacy is one more agent within our health system and may have the capacity to do more things. An infrastructure like that of pharmacies in Spain should not be wasted ”.