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  • Principal Investigator: Kelly Howells
  • 1 September 2021 to 30 June 2022
  • Project No: 520
  • Funding round: FR1


Community Pharmacies are based in high street stores, supermarkets and sometimes next door to the doctor’s surgery. Community pharmacists’ job roles have changed over the last 15 years to include ill health prevention (such as vaccinations) and general health advice. As pharmacies are often based in villages, towns and cities, they are often easy to reach and may be easier to access than a General Practitioner (GP) as no appointment is needed and opening hours are often longer. Due to their location and long opening hours, community pharmacists are ideally placed to support the most disadvantaged and marginalised (e.g. those experiencing homelessness, living in deprived areas, traveller, sex workers, people who do not speak English or ethnic minority groups), who often experience health inequality. Health inequalities are about difference in the condition of people’s health. For example, someone who is living in poverty is likely to die 15 years earlier than someone who is wealthy. While there are many reasons why this is the case, research shows marginalised groups are more likely to struggle to get an appointment with a GP or may feel they cannot get an appointment, which negatively impacts their health. This is particularly the case since COVID-19, as GPs have mainly provided healthcare advice over the phone, but not all marginalised groups may have a phone. Community pharmacists and their teams (which include technicians and dispensers) have continued to provide face-to-face support but recent research shows that some pharmacy teams lack the skills, knowledge and resources to deliver this support. This research project aims to look at the experiences of community pharmacy teams so we can improve our understanding of that they need to support marginalised groups in accessing care for their health needs.

Aims of the research

We aim to explore how community pharmacy teams support marginalised groups to access healthcare and if they need more help than community pharmacy teams can provide, to be able to enable this.

We also aim to find out if and how, community pharmacy teams work together with GPs and nurses and other healthcare professionals to provide this care.

Design and method

The research aims to interview the community pharmacy team, including pharmacy technicians, dispensers and assistants, GPs, nurses and other members of primary care teams (e.g. healthcare assistants, community nurse teams) and members of the primary care networks about working with marginalised groups and deprived communities. We aim to recruit approximately 35 healthcare workers in total. This research will include pharmacies across the North of England due to higher levels of deprivation and inequality.

Patient and public involvement

We will work with a group of pharmacists based in the NIHR Patient Safety and Translational Research Centre at the University of Manchester to discuss the research aims, recruitment, analysis and dissemination. We will also work with Groundswell, a homeless charity who support the Health Now Network and the Vulnerable Adults and Homelessness Community Nurse Team (VAHCN) in Bolton. Based in Manchester and Newcastle, Groundswell will help establish contracts with pharmacists in deprived areas to recruit to the research study. The VAHCN team will also help the team make connections with community pharmacists in their local area.


We will discuss our findings with the NIHR PSTRC Pharmacy Collaborative Group, pharmacists recruited to participate in the research and local policy makers, such as Primary Care Networks, to discuss how best to communicate our research results. This will likely include research papers and reports. We intend to use this research to inform a bigger research bid to test different ways we can help pharmacists support marginalised groups.


Caroline Sanders


Amount awarded: £48,797

Projects by themes

We have grouped projects under the five SPCR themes in this document

Evidence synthesis working group

The collaboration will be conducting 18 high impact systematic reviews, under four workstreams.