Access to medicines in remote and rural areas: a survey of residents in the Scottish Highlands & Western Isles.
Rushworth, Gordon F.
Stewart, Derek C.
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RUSHWORTH, G. F., DIACK, L., MACROBBIE, A., MUNOZ, S.-A., PFLEGER, S., STEWART, D., 2015. Access to medicines in remote and rural areas: a survey of residents in the Scottish Highlands & Western Isles. Public Health, 129 (3), pp. 244-251.
Objectives Sparsely populated areas are potentially predisposed to health inequalities due to limited access to services. This study aimed to explore and describe issues of access to medicines and related advice experienced by residents of the Scottish Highlands and Western Isles. Study Design Cross-sectional cohort study Methods Anonymised questionnaires were mailed to a random sample of 6000 residents aged ≥18 years identified from the electoral register. The questionnaire contained items on: access to medicines; interactions with healthcare services; and perceptions of the services. Results were analysed using descriptive, inferential and spatial statistics. Results Adjusted response rate was 49.5% (2913/5889). Almost two thirds (63.4%, 1847) were prescribed medicines regularly, 88.5% (1634) of whom considered the source convenient. Pharmacy (73.8%, 1364) or dispensing GP (24.0%, 443) were the most accessed sources. Prescription medicine advice was mainly obtained from the GP (55.7%, 1029). Respondents ≥80 years old were significantly (p<0.0001) more likely to live alone (45.3%, 92) compared with those <80 (15.8%, 424). Almost a fifth (16.5%, 31) of those >80 years living alone disagreed that they obtained prescribed medicines from a convenient source. The majority of respondents who felt they did not have a convenient medicines source, regardless of urban/rural classification, lived within five miles of a pharmacy or GP practice. Conclusions Respondents accessed medicines and advice from a variety of sources. While most considered their access to medicines convenient, there were issues for those over 80 years and living alone. Perceived convenience would not appear to be solely based on geographical proximity to supply source. This requires further exploration given that these individuals are likely to have long-term conditions and be prescribed medicines on a chronic basis.