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Access to medicines in remote and rural areas: a survey of residents in the Scottish Highlands and Western Isles.

Rushworth, G.F.; Diack, L.; MacRobbie, A.; Munoz, S.-A.; Pfleger, S.; Stewart, D.


G.F. Rushworth

L. Diack

A. MacRobbie

S.-A. Munoz

S. Pfleger

D. Stewart


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: Anonymized 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 health care 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 (P0.0001) 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.


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 and Western Isles. Public health [online], 129(3), pages 244-251. Available from:

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jan 7, 2015
Online Publication Date Feb 16, 2015
Publication Date Mar 31, 2015
Deposit Date Nov 18, 2015
Publicly Available Date Feb 17, 2016
Journal Public Health
Print ISSN 0033-3506
Electronic ISSN 1476-5616
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 129
Issue 3
Pages 244-251
Keywords Rural health services; Access; Convenience; Nonprescription drugs; Prescription drugs
Public URL


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