Managing minor ailments: the public's preferences for attributes of community pharmacies. A discrete choice experiment

Terry Porteous, Mandy Ryan, Christine Bond, Margaret Watson, Verity Watson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Citations (SciVal)


BACKGROUND: Demand for health services continues to rise. Greater use of community pharmacy services instead of medical services for minor ailments could help relieve pressure on healthcare providers in high-cost settings. Community pharmacies are recognised sources of treatment and advice for people wishing to manage these ailments. However, increasing the public's use of pharmacy services may depend on attributes of pharmacies and their staff. This study aimed to determine the general public's relative preferences for community pharmacy attributes using a discrete choice experiment (DCE).

METHOD: A UK-wide DCE survey of the general public was conducted using face-to-face computer-assisted personal interviews. Attributes and levels for the DCE were informed by a literature review and a cohort study of community pharmacy customers. The context for the experiment was a minor ailment scenario describing flu-like symptoms. The DCE choice sets described two hypothetical community pharmacy services; respondents were asked to choose which (if either) of the two pharmacies they would prefer to help them manage symptoms. Data from 1,049 interviews were analysed using an error components logit model. Willingness to pay (WTP), a monetary measure of benefit, was estimated for the different attribute levels.

RESULTS: When seeking help or treatment for flu-like symptoms, respondents most valued a pharmacy service that would improve their understanding and management of symptoms (WTP = £6.28), provided by staff who are trained (WTP (pharmacist) = £2.63: WTP(trained assistant) = £3.22), friendly and approachable (WTP = £3.38). Waiting time, pharmacy location and availability of parking also contributed to respondents' preferences. WTP for a service comprising the best possible combination of attributes and levels was calculated as £55.43.

CONCLUSION: Attributes of a community pharmacy and its staff may influence people's decisions about which pharmacy they would visit to access treatment and advice for minor ailments. In line with the public's preferences, offering community pharmacy services that help people to better understand and manage symptoms, are provided promptly by trained staff who are friendly and approachable, and in a local setting with easy access to parking, has the potential to increase uptake amongst those seeking help to manage minor ailments. In this way it may be possible to shift demand away from high-cost health services and make more efficient use of scarce public resources.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0152257
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 31 Mar 2016


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Community Pharmacy Services
  • Female
  • Great Britain
  • Humans
  • Influenza, Human
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Patient Preference
  • Pharmacies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult


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