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Improving access to quality contraceptive counselling in community pharmacy: examining the knowledge, attitudes and practices of community pharmacists in Australia


Background Across most of Australia, the role of community pharmacists in contraceptive care has been unchanged since 2004. To understand their current scope of practice and potential for practice advancements, we examined community pharmacists’ contraceptive knowledge and their attitudes, practices and perceived barriers to and benefits of contraceptive counselling provision.

Methods A nationwide postal survey was conducted between September and December 2020. We contacted a state/territory-stratified sample of 2149 community pharmacies and limited eligibility to one pharmacist per pharmacy. Summary statistics of respondent characteristics and parametric (χ2, linear regression) and non-parametric (Mann-Whitney, logistic regression) tests were computed for the outcomes: practices, knowledge (reported and tested), confidence, attitudes, barriers and benefits.

Results Eligible responses were received from 366 pharmacies (19%). Pharmacists’ median age was 34. Most (85% of) pharmacists agreed that contraceptive counselling fits within their current professional activities and emphasised benefits to their patients, including improved access to contraceptive decision support (80%), as being key motivators of counselling. A lack of payment mechanisms (66%), training opportunities (55%) and technical assistance tools (54%) were the most important barriers. Self-rated knowledge and confidence were highest for combined oral contraceptive pills and lowest for the copper intrauterine device (IUD). When tested, pharmacists were very knowledgeable about method, dosage, frequencies and costs, and relatively less knowledgeable about side-effects and IUD suitability for adolescents.

Conclusions Community pharmacists provide contraceptive information and counselling but lack the necessary resources and support to be able to consistently provide quality, person-centred care. Remuneration mechanisms, training opportunities and pharmacy-specific professional resources need to be explored.

  • Health Services Research
  • Counseling
  • Contraceptive Agents, Female
  • Pharmaceutical Services
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Contraceptive Devices, Female

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request. De-identified data available for secondary analyses upon request.

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